A behavior contract can be a powerful discipline tool with teens and you can use it to address and prevent a variety of behaviors. It should clearly outline your expectations of your teen and what will happen if your teen doesn’t meet those expectations.
When to Use a Behavior Contract
You can use a behavior contract in several ways. One way, is to create a contract that outlines how you’ll know when your teen is ready for new privileges.
For example, if your teen wants a 10PM curfew, create a contract that says what he would need to do to earn a later curfew. It may include things such as getting chores done on time for one week or getting above an 80 in each subject on the next report card. Decide what criteria would help you to recognize that your teen is responsible enough to earn that extra privilege.
When you give your child a new privilege, you can also create a contract that makes it clear what your teen will need to do to retain that privilege.
For example, if your teen has started driving, make it clear what he needs to do to keep his driving privileges. Address safety issues and any of your expectations about his behavior that are necessary for him to continue driving.
Discuss the Contract Terms
A contract should clearly outline what you expect to see from your teen. It should also outline what your teen will earn if he follows the contract and what he risks if he breaks the contract. Sign the contract and have your teen sign it as well.
Discuss the contract to make sure that everybody is clear about the expectations. Allow your teen to offer input and suggestions to the contract. Agree to take it under advisement, but you should make the final decisions about the terms of the contract.
Explain what a signed contract means so your teen gains an understanding of the importance of a contract. Use it as a teaching tool that will help your teen later in life.
Discuss the importance of following through with various contracts in life, such as a mortgage contract or a rental contract. Explain possible consequences of breaking such contracts. Make it clear that just like those sorts of contracts have consequences, breaking your contract will have a consequence as well.
Follow Through with the Contract
It’s important to follow through with the terms of the contract. If your teen doesn’t hold up his end of the deal, follow through with the consequence.
Giving him extra chances won’t be helpful if the contract states he only gets once chance. Teens need to know that as an adult, there usually aren’t second chances to break a contract. Once it’s broken, it’s over.
You can however negotiate a new contract at a later date. Or, you and your teen may agree upon changing the terms of the contract at some point during the process.
Electronic and Printable Contracts
A written contract is much more valuable than a verbal contract because there may be questions later about the terms. Write out and sign the contract so that there isn't any question about your expectations or the consequences for breaking the contract.
You can even create an electronic contract that can be reviewed and signed online. It can even be updated regularly and you won't have to worry about a piece of paper becoming lost.
It’s best to create your own contract about your teen’s specific circumstances, the privileges that can be earned or retained, and the consequences of breaking the contract. However, here are some examples of contracts you can print for reference: