When we are raising children on our own, parenting can be one of the most challenging aspects! When they reach teenage years, being a single parent becomes twice as hard as we have no-one to back up our arguments.
So as our children get older we have to use different parenting techniques to get them to do what we want! We want to encourage positive, responsible behaviour in an atmosphere of mutual respect and responsibility. We need them to learn that ‘adulthood equals responsibility’.
One way of doing this is to create a Family Contract, this can enhance co-operation and strengthen the parent/child relationship.
This will only work if you are willing to enter into negotiation at the first stage though.
You will need one contract per child.
- Ask them to write a wish list (in their own time) of about 4-6 items.
- Then write your own wish list (again 4-6 items) of things you would like them to do.
- Then sit down together for negotiations.
- Let your teen go first with their first item.
- Ask them to talk about all their reasons for their request, with no interruptions from you.
- Then it is your turn to respond.
- State all your feelings related to their request. Say Yes if you can and only say No if you must.
- Then you can say ‘If I were to allow this, then I would want you to ……..’ and discuss one of your items.
- Take it in turns presenting items and listening to each other.
- Negotiate for about 5-10 minutes on each item, if you are unable to reach an agreement, pass on to the next item.
- Then write up the contract with the agreed items in place, see the following example:
I (Michael) agree to do the following:
- Babysit from 6-9pm every Tuesday night
- Spend Sunday at home with the family
- Go to my room at 10pm every evening, I can read or listen to music
- Take responsibility of getting up and ready to go to school on time
I (Mum) agree to do the following:
- Let you stay at your friends house on Friday nights
- Give you £5.00 each week towards clothes
- Let you have friends over for a film night once a month
- Drive you to school on my days off
Signature: (Older child/Teen)
Date to renegotiate contract:
You must then both sign and date the contract then set a date to discuss the contract and renegotiation preferably a week after.
By writing ‘This contract is entered into in good faith’ on the top of the contract, it represents that you have both discussed and agreed that ‘your word is your bond’.
Even though they may seem too old, don’t forget to praise them every time they do something that was agreed to on the list. Also you must stick to it yourself!
If Michael does not babysit on Tuesday, you still keep up your side of the bargain – ‘your word is your bond’.
Remember you have a renegotiation date set, so you can discuss the situation then and alter the agreement.
If after the renegotiation Michael does not babysit on Tuesday then does he get to stay at his friends on Friday night? No, if he doesn’t comply, nor do you.
The difference between this and an incentive chart for younger children is:
Incentive chart – If you do as I asked, you will be rewarded.
Family Contract – I said this would happen; I stuck by my word, now you do the same.
By using the family contract, your teenager will feel that they have had their voice heard and learn that even though they are reaching an age where they are not accountable to anyone but themselves, it is important to take responsibility for others as well as themselves.
They will also see that you want to give them more freedom and that you want to treat them more like an adult.