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The Contract Between a Parent and a Teen

They can be an official introduction to the adult world

by MaryP  |  10277 views  |  5 comments  |       Rate this now! 

Parenting teenagers is tricky. Teens are prickly. They want to be treated as adults; they resist adult responsibilities. The frustrating fact of teens is that they want the perks of adulthood AND the perks of childhood, and none of the downsides of either. This is not entirely wilfull selfishness. Teens genuinely (and childishly!) believe that adulthood is ALL freedom and autonomy. Thus, parents who demand responsible behaviour, who have expectations of them, are treating them as "children."

How do you deal with that?

Try a contract. Contracts are part of adult life. Offers of employment, mortgages, rental agreements, car leases ... all are contracts. With that understanding, you can craft something mutually acceptable with your teen.

1.) Identify your issue: Spending money, use of car, social schedule, homework.

2.) Each party lists their responsibilities: "I will..." "I can provide..." It is best, where possible, to phrase these in positive terms.

3.) Brainstorm consequences of non-compliance. Again, this is not "treating him/her as a child." Most contracts have a penalty clause; many domestic contracts also include a dispute resolution section.

4.) Print two copies: One for the teen to keep, and one to be posted someplace central.

Tips for parents: Though you'll have an agenda for this document, you can't write it single-handed. Like any contract, it will be negotiated, Don't be too generous; if you make a concession, make sure your teen understands that you have done so. Don't make two in a row if your child hasn't made one yet! Concessions are traded -- no one gets everything they want, but, if everyone cooperates with the process, everyone gets most of it.

Welcome to the Adult World.

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

5 comments so far...

  • I will definitely try this! I have 2 teens and one pre-teen and I'm a single parent, so it's a challenge! Thanks for great ideas!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by BlapherMJ on 20th March 2008

  • I am going to try this with our soon to be 9 year old son, I think this is just what we need.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rachel on 18th March 2008

  • WOW! wonderful ideas I'm drawing one up tonight!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Heidi on 17th March 2008

  • Great article! I have 7 children, 4 of them are teens, I am going to share this with my husband. We seem to have periods where it is hard to communicate without sounding like we are talking to one of the younger kids.Thank you!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 16th March 2008

  • We did this on several occasions when my son was in his teens, and it really is a good approach. I'm going to share this article with my husband, whose daughter is 13 now - he's still getting used to the parenting-a-teen thing. Excellent (and concise) article, MaryP - thanks!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 14th March 2008