While teens may initially balk at the idea of agreeing to implement a contract with their parents, getting all of your mutual rights, responsibilities and expectations on paper can make a big difference in the way that you communicate with one another.
The effectiveness of a well-written contract is one of the many reasons why written agreements dictate so much in terms of professional behavior, a concept that can be applied directly to you and your teen.
These are 10 of the things that you should include in your own parent-teen contract, so that there are no disputes borne of misunderstanding or miscommunication.
- Driving Privileges – Driving is a rite of passage, an undeniable sign to both your teen and yourself that she’s starting to grow up. Handing over those keys doesn’t mean that you’re giving her free reign to do as she pleases, though. Making sure that your teen understands driving her car is a privilege that can be taken away, rather than an unassailable right, can motivate her to behave accordingly. Outlining things like curfew, safe driving responsibilities and the financial responsibilities of driving can help your teen understand just how big of a step driving really is.
- Cell Phone Use – Today’s cell phone plans are a bit more flexible than the exorbitant fee charges for any calls made during peak times a decade ago, but they can still be quite expensive. In an era that sees every teen with a cell phone, laying a strong foundation regarding the proper etiquette of cell phone use, the importance of never using a cell phone as a tool for bullying and the repercussions of texting and driving is important.
- Staying Home Alone – Your teen will inevitably decide that she’s too old for childcare or babysitters during the period between her return from school and your arrival from work. Covering what is and is not considered acceptable behavior when she’s home alone in a section of the parent-teen contract clearly communicates these things to her.
- Unsupervised Visits with Friends – No matter how much you’d like to be watching over your teen every moment of the day, the truth is that you just can’t. When it’s time to trust her with unsupervised outings with her friends, knowing that you’ve discussed the matter at length and covered it in your contract can help give you some peace of mind.
- Dating – Few things strike fear in the heart of a parent like the idea of their teen dating. Unfortunately, it’s also an unavoidable fact of life as a parent. Making sure that your child knows what’s expected of her when she’s dating in terms of curfew, supervision and the likes can make the transition a bit easier for everyone involved.
- Computer and Internet Usage – The Internet is a powerful learning and research tool for teens, but it can also be a very dangerous place for them. Making sure that your teen knows how to avoid online predators, bullies and other dangers is important, but so is limiting the amount of time she spends connected to a screen. Working out a reasonable Internet and computer usage policy can help to maintain peace in your home, as well as discourage constant connectivity.
- Television Use – Limiting screen time is as important for teens as it is for younger children, even if it is more challenging to enforce. Encouraging active pursuits and hobbies that get your teen moving will not only impact her physical wellbeing, but also help instill good habits in terms of television use as an adult.
- Earning and Spending – Teens have expensive taste, a fact that parents know all too well. Outlining how your teen will earn spending money, how much of her income should be set aside for expenses and different saving methods are all important parts of teaching financial responsibility.
- Chores – Making your teen responsible for helping with the daily running of the household can give her an idea of just how much work goes into keeping up a home and the importance of contributing fairly. Covering those chores in the parenting contract can also prevent arguments later, as it serves as a black-and-white reference when disputes arise.
- House Rules – Every household has its own rules to follow, and they should be spelled out clearly for your teen in her contract. When she knows exactly what’s expected of her and what isn’t allowed, she’ll be better able to navigate the area between them with confidence.
Working on the contract together will not only give your teens a sense of ownership over the agreement, but also the chance to make sure that their interests are protected. The most effective parent-teen contracts allow teens to have a voice in terms of their own rights and expectations. Try not to draw up a contract that gives your teen a laundry list of rules and no rights of her own. A contract that simply imposes rules and stifles your kids is one that they’re not likely to accept without rebellion, whereas one that outlines the needs of all involved parties is something they might be able to respect.