It happens in business all the time. When two parties want a clear understanding of how their relationship is going to work (and the rights and responsibilities of each), they should get their agreement written in a contract.
So why not do this with your kids? – especially your teenager, as he or she embarks upon one of their scariest (for parents) responsibilities of growing up: driving a car. Read more….
While having lunch with Ray Suplee, CPA of Suplee & Shea several years ago, the subject of raising kids came up. Ray mentioned that one of the best things he ever did in raising his kids was to make them sign a contract before being allowed to drive. He said that, for him, it worked so well, he rarely had to worry about their safety – or even keeping the car maintained! For sample Behavior Contracts for Teens, including one on driving, click here.
After reading more about this concept, I noted that most psychologists believe that creating a contract is a form of positive problem-solving communication: an active two-party negotiation in which both sides are interested. It’s very effective to write down what you expect of your child and what the consequences will be if the child deviates from the program. While it definitely works for driving a car, this technique can be used with any child old enough to read and understand what is included in the contract. These contracts provide children with early lessons in contractual agreements and the whole concept of what it means to sign a document and agree to its stipulations.
Without written agreements, discussions often become forgotten, especially when it is to someone's benefit to do so. Other benefits of contracts include giving the child some sense of justice and control. The contract has the “final word,” which underscores the importance of being clear about responsibilities of both parties as well as the consequences of breaking them. Signing the contract increases the commitment of the parent and child to fulfill their roles as stated. Once your children have seen it in writing, it's hard for them to deny that they understood it.
To view a sample template to create a teen behavior contract, click here.
And remember, experts suggest that the human brain is not fully developed until about Age 25, so if you are feeling frustrated by your teen, please know that you are not alone! Good luck!