From grades, nutrition and curfews, to smoking, drugs, and sexual conduct, there are any number of teen issues that may benefit from a parent contract. Parent contracts are written agreements between teens and parents outlining rules and behavior expectations, as well as the consequences for violating those rules. Contracts open the lines of communication within a family. They are most effective when both parents and teens develop and agree on the outlined terms together. However, there are many benefits to signing parent contracts with your teens.
Parent contracts give parents and teens the opportunity to sit down and talk about important issues with the goal of outlining appropriate conduct for each situation of concern. The idea is to create an agreement that meets the goals of both parties. Therefore, creating a parent contract opens the floor for discussion about what and why things are important to us as individuals. This type of communication strengthens relationships between parents and teens, and helps to resolve issues before they become problematic. You may even wish to start early on with younger children using child behavior contracts so they are accustomed to contracts prior to becoming out of control teens where they may see the contracts as more of a threat than an agreement.
Eliminating a certain element of drama, parent contracts are usually done before a behavioral issue becomes a mess of heightened emotions. Teens who have violated a contract are less likely to take a victim stance and use the word “unfair” to describe discipline, when they have previously agreed on what behavior and punishment is appropriate. Often this helps teens take more accountability for their actions, placing the focus on the actual behavior, instead of the resulting consequences that have already been predetermined. Instead of controlling your teen with rules, you are allowing them to develop and build confidence in their own decision making skills.
Parent contracts can also be used as a tool to outline goals and rewards for reaching those goals. This is a way to reinforce positive behavior, such as completing household chores, keeping up grades, and making healthy lifestyle choices. Overall, teen contracts benefit both the teen and parent, giving a formal time to communicate expectations for safe, appropriate behavior and growth.