Writing a Behaviour Agreement for Youth Group
When behaviour gets out of control, youth group activities suffer, the kids don't enjoy themselves and you come away feel frustrated. When a large group of children get together, it seems there's always a handful who just can't seem to keep a lid on their actions. So how do you keep control of the group – before certain group members take control of themselves?
Set Ground Rules from the StartSetting ground rules from the start is vital, lay out exactly what type of behaviour is expected at all times. Reinforcing those ground rules, however, can be a different matter. One way to keep control is to have a “behaviour” agreement or contract, set out from the very beginning and signed by every youth group member.
The goal of such a contract is to establish and agree upon a specific code of behaviour which each group member agrees to follow. This should be based upon suggestions by the group as a whole, with input from the leader. The agreement should allow each member to flourish in the group environment, while being able to rely on others to do the same. You'll also need to have a set of sanctions to get kids to adhere to the agreement, see below for some examples.
Help Members to UnderstandStart by explaining to the youth group members why it's necessary to have a behaviour contract, and why it can raise the standards of the group as a whole. Have members contribute their own input, and help them to understand why group dynamics are so important when a large number of people are involved.
Next, ask them to come up with their own ideas of how they would expect other people to behave. You can even ask them to act out scenarios of what happens when group members act inappropriately – when someone constantly interrupts or is violent, for example, or when a group member insists on always being first in every game.
Explain that having a safe place to play that's both educational and fun is the youth group's goal, and ask them to come up with rules that would ensure that happens. They can write them down or copy them on large pieces of paper, which can be hung up for the entire group to see. The rules can then be typed into a contract, which can be handed out at the next session to be signed.
Sample Behaviour ContractHere are some suggestions to include, although each contract will obviously vary with specifications adapted to every youth group:
At our Youth Group, we promise to do our very best to:
- Respect others as individuals - giving the other person our undivided attention, listening politely and not ridiculing what other people say.
- Respect other's culture, race and background - realising that while we are all different, that deep inside we are essentially the same.
- Take turns- let everyone have a turn and be fair when picking teams
- Winning is not the only goal - understand that whilst winning is one goal - trying your best and shared teamwork matter too.
- Speak openly – but kindly and speak how you would like to be spoken to.
- Have the right to say “no” - if we don't want to take part in a specific activity, that's our right, but we also appreciate that trying something new or different is what makes youth group fun.
- Turn up for meetings and events on time - people should not have to wait because one youth group member is consistently late.
- Have fun and work to the best of our ability and try as hard as we can. In return, we expect our progress and accomplishments to be recognised.
- Respect other people's possessions - don't damage other people's things or take anyone else's property without asking
'No Tolerance' PolicyAlong with general expectations of how young people should behave, a no-tolerance policy of certain actions could also be implemented, which can include:
- No alcohol or drugs.
- No sexual misconduct, including harassment or discrimination.
- No violence and no gang activity.
- No weapons (knives included) or fireworks.
Young people act best when they know what is expected of them. Letting them have an input into how they should behave and why they should behave that way is one step toward getting the behaviour you want.
Consequences of ActionsYoung people and children, need to know that their actions and failure to behave appropriately have consequences. Here's an example of some consequences you could put in place:
The 'Do our Best to' Section of the Agreement
- The offender gets a mark against their name (on the register or a list created specially) for every breach of this section of the agreement. Once 3 offences have been recorded, move to the next stage
- 1. Warning - a formal spoken warning and miss out on next outing
- 2. Call to parents and final written warning
- 3 Expulsion from the youth group
Failing in the 'No Tolerance' SectionDepending on the severity of the offence - this should result in suspension or expulsion from the group. No tolerance should after all, mean what it says.
While there can be no standard, ideal agreement or contract for every youth group, one that reflects the particular features of your group is ideal. Allowing youth group members to thrash out their own ideas and feel they are active contributors to the contract will make them more likely to stick to it.