Do you have multiple Littles or whatever sizes/ages that tend to band together to form a mutiny in your household? I mean, do you have several adorable children who you dress in coordinating (not matching) outfits and who share perfectly, act like angels, and make your life a breeze?

A group contingency means that ALL members of the group must perform the desired behavior for the reward to be granted. If we are getting technical there are other forms of group contingencies but I’ll save a more in-depth look for another day.

Can you say positive peer pressure?

A group contingency can mean that siblings monitor each others’ behavior and support each other to make sure everyone is on the right track and everyone is going to earn the reward/reinforcer.

How to do this?

(1) Decide what the target behaviors are for the contingency. You could call it a contract with your kids.  Select no more than 3 behaviors and make them specific so Littles can understand and know exactly what to do! Remember- “making good choices” or “being a good citizen” leaves the door wide open for misconstruing the meaning and your poor Little is left dangling in the breeze, unsure of what exactly their sibling is pressuring them to do!

(2) Choose a reinforcer. How about let the kids decide as a group? Give a few choices within your budget- both financial and time budgets- and let them pick! They will already have to work together just to pick one reward!

(3) Set your time period. A month is too long. A day may be too short. What is best for your family? Make it achievable at first- so start smaller than you think necessary. Over time, you can make it longer and longer until a month is achievable for your kiddos.

(4) Start monitoring their behavior and remind them to keep each other on track to earn that big exciting treat of ice cream for dinner one night! Or whatever kooky thing you can convince them is fun and exciting yet easy and cheap to implement.

Caution: if you have a super bossy kid, maybe this isn’t for your family. Or maybe you need to have a chat with Miss or Mr. Bossypants about how to nicely encourage their siblings instead of bossing them around all the time.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Learn more about group contingencies and other behavior strategies in Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity!

Research is COOL!
Cooper, J., Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Basic Concepts. In Applied Behavior Analysis(2nd ed., pp 567-573). Columbus: Pearson.
Hayes, L. A. (1976). The use of group contingencies for behavioral control: A review. Psychological Bulletin83(4), 628.
Ling, S., Hawkins, R. O., & Weber, D. (2011). Effects of a classwide interdependent group contingency designed to improve the behavior of an at-risk student. Journal of Behavioral Education20(2), 103-116.
Pigott, H. E., FANTuzzo, J. W., & Clement, P. W. (1986). The effects of reciprocal peer tutoring and group contingencies on the academic performance of elementary school children. Journal of applied behavior analysis19(1), 93-98.