I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ready? Since the dawn of time, every parent has flown by the seat of his or her pants. Just when you think you have a handle on this child guidance thing, something changes, someone gets hormones or a pimple, or some other major life crisis occurs. We all lose sleep, wondering if we’re doing this right. This is when you may love having a Family Contract in place.
Contract Objectives: Family contracts are written agreements between you and your child, outlining specific expectations and the consequences if they are not met. Your child knows exactly what is expected and is empowered to make appropriate choices. It eliminates surprises and negotiations post facto. You no longer need to nag, grit your teeth or lose your cool. It’s as easy as, “So, I see you have chosen to…what are the consequences?” and then, “What might you do differently next time?” Doesn’t that sound awesome? It really is.
Contract Goals: Contracts vary, based on your child’s age and the specific goal. Here are a few examples of contract goals for elementary school age children and higher:
- Homework and Grades
- Chores and Allowance
- Overnights, Parties, and Responsibility for Guests
- Self-care Routines
- Cell Phone and Internet
- Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco
- Pet Care
- Adhering to Family Values (honesty, integrity etc.)
Preparing Your Contract: Be prepared to create the contract together. Ideally, parents will have a few non-negotiables (ex. drugs, curfew, bedtimes), but will be willing to compromise in some areas, too. It is important that the child feel that he or she has some input also. The contract has four parts (as outlined by Bert Welch for Souixland CARES).
- Topic or “Goal”
- Expectations, Rules or Details
Upon completion, read it aloud. Once all parties agree, make a copy for each person plus one. Sign and date each copy and place one in a central location, such as the fridge or kitchen drawer. Remember, once the child chooses to break the rule or responsibility, it is not up for negotiation. It is time for the established consequence (that they’ve previously agreed to in writing).
Some of the terms you may choose to use in a parent / child contract (sample for a young teen) may include:
HOMEWORK & CURFEW:
- Homework must be done before going out on weekdays; you must be in bed by 9 pm.
- Can go out on weekends if homework can be completed on Sundays; in bed by 11 pm.
- RESPONSIBILITY: Must maintain a “C” average or better. Better is preferred
PHONE & TECHNOLOGY CURFEW:
- Weekdays no calls or technology after 9 pm
- Weekends no calls or technology after 11 pm
- RESPONSIBILITY: You are responsible for your friends knowing the family rules. You must inform parents if extra phone time is needed for school assignments.
- CONSEQUENCES: Next night’s curfew will be 1 hour earlier. Repeated infractions will require technology and phone to be left in the kitchen at bedtime for one week.
- All your stuff cleaned out of common areas by bedtime.
- Clear and clean up after dinner.
- Clean your room and laundry by sundown on Sundays.
- Help around the house when asked.
- RESPONSIBILITY: Do chores without being told.
- CONSEQUENCES: More chores will be added to this list.
Your ability to follow the contract during this contract period with a good attitude will determine the freedoms and privileges granted in the next contract period.
Parenting is a wild ride, wouldn’t it be nice to have some things established? Try family contracts, no lawyer or notary required. Or…you could keep living life in a blender without a top. You do have a choice.