A family contract supports purposeful parenting as opposed to emotional reactive parenting. If a parent can recognize what is occurring in the moment, they won’t be as reactive. The family contract provides a framework for expectations and consequences; in effect there is less talking, arguing, and manipulation that occurs.
First, identify patterns of behavior. What behaviors do you want to improve? Keep it simple, state the expected behavior, and limit the behaviors you want to address to no more than five. Second, identify and strategize obstacles to following the family contract. Remember, aligned parenting creates expectations that increase consistency and structure. After behaviors and obstacles have been identified, seek childrens’ input for the types of privileges they would like to earn.
Sample Family Contract:
1. Attend School
2. Be ready at 7:00
3. Clean Room
Cell phone privilege
Go out on Friday night
Have a friend over
1 hour of screen time
With a family contract, things are not taken away, they are earned. Everything is earned.
Have both daily and weekly privileges on the contract to teach both immediate and delayed gratification. There will be times your child does not earn a privilege when your child does not fulfill an expectation.
Strategies for Parents:
The Family Contract is a framework for expectations and privileges. We are increasing self-awareness, while avoiding enabling our children. Not everything or situation can be fixed; during those moments we need to sit with our own discomfort and know that it is okay if we are not able to fix everything. Create a home environment that fosters structure and consistency. Communicate effectively and avoid mixed messages. Recognize patterns that contribute to child’s anxiety. When in doubt of what to say, don’t say anything.
Emotional and Cognitive Development:
Parents should consider emotional development stage when formulating expectations. Where is your child? How do you parent? How do you grow with them emotionally as they age?
Provide child with choices. Use language such as “It is your choice” vs. “You have to.” Use language that is purposeful, and look for opportunities for your child to work through uncomfortable feelings. Use language such as “What do you think you could do,” vs. “You’ll be ok.” Remember, less is more when it comes to verbal communication.