When my kids were little we used chore charts with stars to motivate and hold our kids accountable to carry out their home responsibilities.
As they’ve grown older, we found the need for a new strategy. And with our two teens at home, we’ve found that contracts work quite well.
I first learned about the concept of contracts when co-authoring the book Got Teens? with Pam Farrel. The Farrel’s had used contracts with their three boys. We’ve adopted the concept and found it very helpful with homework, cell phones, driving, dating, and more.
As of last week, Kolya now has his driver’s license. With a license, comes a cell phone for safety purposes. So this week we’ve drawn up two contracts, one for driving and one for the cell phone.
Here’s the cell phone contract:
Parents and Teens Contract: Cell Phone Use
I know that having a cell phone to use is a privilege. I respect that my parents love me and want to keep me safe. My parents respect that I am becoming a young adult and want the privilege of having the use of a cell phone primarily for safety purposes when I’m driving and away from home. With that in mind, we agree:
1. I will remember what usage is allowed with our cell phone plan and I will not go over the limits of that usage. My limits are 300 minutes per month usage. Unlimited text.
2. I know that I am required to contribute to the cost of my cell phone. My contribution is: $10/month. Mom and Dad will pay for phone insurance and minutes. (Jill’s note: it cost us $10/month to add the phone to our family plan and we did not have to increase our minutes.)
3. My cell phone must be turned off at 9pm each school night and 10pm in the summer and Friday and Saturday nights. It is my responsibility to be sure the cell phone is being recharged each night in the kitchen. (Jill’s note: we learned from experience that allowing them to recharge their phone at night in their bedroom is too tempting for late night usage.)
4. I agree that if I am unable to keep up with my responsibilities, the use of my cell phone can be taken away from me. This can happen even if I have contributed to the cost of the cell phone plan.
5. I will not use my cell phone to take pictures of nudity, violence or other unallowed instances. (Jill’s note: we had picture texts and internet blocked on his phone number.)
6. I will not use my cell phone to call anyone for malicious purposes. (bullying, crank calling, etc.)
7. I will not use my cell phone while driving. If the phone rings or I get a text while I’m driving I will not look to see who is calling and I will not answer it. If I need to make a call or text, I will pull into a parking lot to do so.
8. I will limit the number of people that have my cell phone number.
9. I will limit the amount of time I am on the phone. These limitations include no texting during meals, when spending time with family or extended family, and when my parents ask me to put the phone away for any reason.
10. Mom and Dad will know any phone passwords and voice mail passwords. I understand that mom and dad have the right to look at my text messages and my phone history at any time they ask.
The consequences for not following through with these limits on my cell phone use are:
- Loss of phone use for one week if any part of the contract is broken for the first time.
- Loss of phone use as determined by mom and dad if there is a recurring issue.
Signed (Teen) _________________________________
Signed (Parent) ________________________________
Signed (Parent) _________________________________
There are two websites where I’ve found helpful wording for teen contracts. They can be found HERE and HERE.
One of the keys to contracts is to have the teen help determine the consequences. We find it best to give them the contract a couple of days before we sit down to discuss it. We tell them to bring their suggested consequences to the table when we sit down to discuss and sign the contract. Then we discuss and agree on the consequences, adding them to the contract we will sign.
Just like toddlers, we’ve found that teens like to know the boundaries. They respond to structure. And if the expectations are clearly stated, they are more likely to meet them. Contracts help to clearly state the expectations and the consequences that will happen if the expectations are not met.
Have you ever used contracts in any way? Did your parents use them with you? Do you have any insight to add to this parenting strategy?
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What a fantastic idea!! We're big fans of "the chart," and I can see this working well for my analytical boys down the road. We're still a few years away from the teen years.
I think this is such a great concept. I don't have kids, but have many nieces and nephews. I like taking the ambiguity out of the situation as well as addressing something things that are hard to talk about (like what usage of the phone is not allowed). Do you use contracts for other things or save it for specific/important things like this? Do your kids ever balk at what you've put in the contract?
Becky, we use contracts for any part of life where there are consistent expectations that we want to clearly communicate. We currently use contracts for dating, driving, phone, and eventually we will use one for being in unsupervised social settings.
We find the kids don't balk near as much with a contract in place as they do when things are not clearly communicated and they are searching for loopholes.
Thanks so much for this post! Where can I find a sample dating contract? I love that I can tell my boys I got this contract from some other mom. They won't believe me, of course, because "We're the only parents who are sooooo strict." Wheee …
There is a sample of a dating contract on one of the two websites I linked to in the post. Let me know if you have trouble finding it.
Great idea! My guys are still young to use this but I'm planning to make an "If/Then" chart before we start school. It will clearly spell out the consequences for their behavior. Ex. IF you yell at a family member THEN you will sit on your bed for 5 minutes to calm down. IF you don't obey the 1st time you are asked to do something THEN you will stand in the corner for 5 minutes. Spelling out the consequences for behavior before it happens helps them know what's coming and helps me know how to respond.