How do you write a parenting contract?

By: Contributors

A parenting contract sets down in writing the behavior you expect from your child or teen, the consequences for not abiding by the contract, and the results for compliance with it. The point of the contract is to teach teens that they're accountable for their behavior and that breaking rules is punishable, while abiding by rules affords privileges. It is recommended that all adults who are responsible for raising the child or teen (parents, step-parents, legal guardians) be involved with the formation and enforcement of the contract so that the child or teen doesn't wriggle out of the contract by pitting one parent against the other. In addition, it's recommended that contracts be drawn up for all pre-teens and teens in the family, even if only one is the troublemaker, so he or she won't feel unfairly singled out.

Give each member of the family who will be signing the contract a blank contract to fill in with the rules, punishments and rewards they think should be in the contract. The reason you're letting your teens write down what they think is because if their opinion is taken into account, they're much more likely to follow the rules that they helped formulate. Be aware that your teens might come up with harsher rules or stiffer punishments than you would! Go over the contracts with your co-parents and decide on a final version of the contract. If your teens won't participate in drawing up a contract, let them know that they still have to follow it.


Don't put more than five areas of behavior that you want to regulate into the contract, spell out exactly the behavior expected (e.g., teens will let parents know their whereabouts and will be home by 8:00 pm on school nights, 10:00 pm on nonschool nights), and specify exactly what will happen if the teen complies or does not comply (for compliance, you might let your teen stay out another half hour, while if your teen doesn't come home on time, he or she will have to come home an hour earlier for a week).