Are parenting contracts helpful to teens?

Parenting contracts, also known as parent-teen contracts, are written contracts that clearly state the rules your teen is expected to conform to, the consequences for violating the rules, and the results of abiding by the rules. Parenting contracts often are helpful to teens when they are consulted in the drawing up of the contract, as they're more likely to abide by rules that they helped formulate. In addition, they work with the same premises as some youth programs, wherein the rules are clearly spelled out ("come home on time" is defined clearly as "be at home by 8:00 pm"; "behave well" is clarified as "no alcohol or drugs"), and consequences for breaking the rules are written down in black and white. Teens are given the responsibility for managing their own behavior and they eventually realize that when they are punished it was due to their choice.

Contracts that have more severe consequences for repeated misbehavior work well, too, where the punishment increases if the rule was broken again, and the teen then has to earn back his former privileges with good behavior. For example, if the teen disobeyed the rule against driving after consuming alcohol, he or she is barred from using the car for a week. If the teen drinks and drives again, the use of the car is suspended for two weeks. Aside from spelling out the rules for your teen's sake, the contract also prevents a parent from impulsively meting out an excessive punishment that may later have to be withdrawn.

Write up a contract with no more than five areas of your teen's behavior on which you want to focus, such as curfew, chores around the house, smoking, alcohol or drug use, violence or the use of profanity, computer use, dating, compliance with therapy or medication, or interaction with siblings. Date the contract, and review it periodically to make sure that both sides are in compliance.




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