Have your children ever tried the old “but you said….” routine? I’m sure it’s a stock standard attempt for many children (including mine!) to manipulate us in some way, and I’m also sure that for many kids it has worked on occasion – let’s face it parents are mostly very busy people and it can happen that we occasionally forget what we actually did say, or sometimes we might even agree to something in a weak moment where we didn’t think it through.
In those situations it’s easy for us to “second-guess” ourselves when our children start with “but you said…” Usually this confrontation will either end up in us giving in to our child or having an argument with our child about what we may or may not have said!…This is where a well thought out Behavior Contract may come in handy.
Bring on the Behavior Contract
When a behavior contract is implemented a set of expected behaviors or goals are clearly stated, along with any associated rewards. As soon as you hear the words “but you said…” you can simply pull out the contract and refer to it together (avoiding the smugness you may feel :)).
An example that may sound familiar to many might go something like this:
“..but you said if I do my homework tonight we can have take-out” and when you both refer to the behavior contract it might actually state “if you do your homework every night this week, we can have take-out on the week-end”.
Hopefully this is where the argument will end. Especially if you both initially set up the behavior contract with a good spirit and intent. You’ve both signed off on the particulars of the contract, you both are willing to hold each other to their obligations of the contract, and you’ve taken the effort to make the whole process of setting up the behavior contract feel “important”.
Sure your child might become sullen when you pull out the contract and show where they’re wrong in their assertion “but you said…”, but if you do it without the “I told you so” attitude and maybe with some gentle encouragement, they will soon stop.
After all you’ve entrusted them with the responsibility of formulating, negotiating and signing an “official” document. In those moments where arguments are brewing, remind your children of this, remind them of their reward, and offer them your positive encouragement.
By treating similar situations in such a way, using a behavior contract really can reduce arguments.