Behavior Contracts: Establishing Boundaries and Guidelines for Teens
"Well, you never told me I couldn't do that..."
"That's not fair; you can't ground me for doing that!"
"...but mom said it was okay if I stayed out until midnight."
Do the above statements sound familiar? These are the types of comments and complaints one often hears in households that fail to implement a consistent and structured discipline regimen. Parents that utilize behavior contracts, however, rarely hear these phrases because the rules and guidelines have already been established.
Behavior contracts provide a simple and effective solution to many parenting dilemmas because everything is already clearly stated. Children and teens are told what their behavioral expectations are and what the consequences will be for not meeting them. Along with the consequences are usually a set of privileges or rewards that are included for children who meet the terms and conditions set forth in the contract. These children quickly learn that positive behaviors lead to positive outcomes and vice versa.
Behavior contracts (also called "child contracts" or "teen contracts") are most effective if they meet the following criteria:
1. They must be fair to both parties.
2. They must be specific (rather than vague).
3. They must be enforceable.
4. There must be consideration (rewards for success and consequences for failure).
5. They must be enforced.
Parents that enforce behavior contracts are likely to notice in a change in the way their children behave. Negative behaviors become a thing of the past as positive and compliant behaviors become the new standard. No longer will parents need to give consequences "on the fly" because the behavior contract already spells out the consequences that will result when their children act out.
If you are interested in creating a behavior contract for your child or teen, then here are a few resources for you:
www.teenbehaviorcontracts.com (behavior contracts covering teen issues, plus much more!)
www.parentcoachplan.com (offers an in-home discipline program that includes a set of behavior contracts which can be downloaded)
www.behavior-contracts.com (offers a variety of behavior contracts and other parenting tools that can be downloaded, plus an online "Create a Behavior Contract" system)
www.ContractforAdultChild.com (customizable contract designed to help parents who have adult children that are moving back home)
Each of the links listed above will take you to a site that offers low-cost, pre-written behavior contracts that cover a variety of different topics and issues, depending on what your needs are. You will also find useful parenting articles and helpful advice for raising well-adjusted children and teens.