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The Four Behaviour Agreements

The most common trigger of anxiety in those of us without diagnosable anxiety issues is the absence of a plan.


I wonder if you, like me, sleep poorly when you know you’re not planned for the next day. Yeah, thought so.


So, as you hit a new school year it’s worth putting a plan in place when your teacher radar tells you – as it will … and early – that a particular student in your care is about to cause you just a little anxiety.


A behaviour plan can be incredibly formal and comprehensive. But we don’t always need to escalate that far first up.


A more simple behavioural agreement can often be co-designed between you and students of almost all ages. Even on a scrap of paper.


You only need four agreements:

  1. A single target behaviour. Make the target too big or broad and they’ll smell the failure. This means the student will likely wreck your plan quickly.
  2. A time limit. Nobody should be expected to be perfect forever or even until they fail.
  3. A negotiated consequence. Don’t worry. If you need to moderate this, it’s usually down.
  4. A signature. For some pretty funky psychological reasons, this implies a much higher level of personal accountability for you both and improves your chances of success.


From this point, there are only two potential outcomes:

  • The student succeeds at the time limit and you’ve generated an important moment of celebration.
  • The student fails and you simply follow through on the signed agreement, preserving your important relational connection with the student. We can then try again.


This absurdly simple plan has worked for me countless times to improve student behaviour challenges in the short and long term.


But just having that plan also reduces my anxiety, improves my sleep, supports my wellbeing and enhances my performance.


I’ll take that.


Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. Our flagship program – and pretty much the only way we work with schools – is our School Culture Partnership. We’re incredibly proud of the impact that the work has over the three-year partnerships. We’re also humbled that 130 schools across Australia kicked off partnerships with us in 2023.


In 2024, we’re raising the price of partnership for the first time in three years. However, if your school signs up for Partnership before February 15th, you can still have the 2021-23 pricing. If you think your school might like to jump in now and take advantage of the old pricing, just hit reply and say “Let’s chat about Partnership”.