Contracts are usually viewed as extremely long, dry documents that many people don't read. Often, we just glance at them (pretending to understand what they say) and then sign at the bottom.
But what if I told you that contracts are a parent's best friend? It's true!
The beauty of contracts is that they spell everything out. It's written down, so details of an agreement can't be forgotten or argued about. Both parties have to agree and sign the contract, or it's not valid. It also helps build trust.
Have you ever come to an agreement with your child or made a decision about responsibilities and consequences and then had them come to you and argue about what the agreement had originally been? Maybe they've even accused you of lying? Sometimes we remember things incorrectly, sometimes our kids do, or sometimes we have a child who likes to push the envelope.
Here are a few examples of how contracts have helped in our family:
1. We have a teenage child who didn't really care about his school work. But he DOES really care about his ipod and his friends. Here is what we did:
He ended up losing his ipod- long term goals are harder for him to prioritize. But here's the thing, he couldn't fight us about it! But for the win, he was much more aware of his weekly grades. He wanted to hang out with his friends, and sometimes he couldn't because he didn't hand in an assignment or he forgot to study for a test. He saw pretty immediate consequences. With my husband's help, he developed better study habits and started to care about his grades-maybe not for the right reasons, but it's a start.
Our contract has helped us become the good guys in helping him with his school work so we can enable him to spend time with his friends. It gives him the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions in a non-emotional, non-dramatic way. It's in black and white. He agreed to and signed it. There is nothing to argue about.
2. Does this sound familiar? Two young brothers want to trade Lego mini figures. Then someone changes their mind and says that he didn't GIVE it to his brother, he just SHARED it with him. Brother disagrees. What's a parent to do? Make a contract any time anything changes hands.
It can just be a sticky note- it doesn't have to be fancy. It can be as simple as: "Billy gives Johnny his Yoda. Johnny gives Billy his Luke Skywalker. This is for forever." But when they both sign it, suddenly all chances of fighting fade away. It's a very, very, beautiful thing.
3. One child lends another child money. As parents, we really discourage this, but it happens once in a while. But wait...did $5 get lent, or did $10? Didn't the borrower pay back $3 last week? The lender claims he didn't receive any payment. What about the interest? Was it 10% per day or per week? Again, the contract saves the day! All terms are spelled out, and any payment is noted by BOTH parties.
A few more ideas:
4. Many families have found that contracts for screen time and cyber behavior have been extremely useful.
5. New drivers and your insurance rates can also benefit from contracts. When does your child have permission to use the car? Who pays for gas? What if your teen gets in a car accident? What happens if they speed? What happens if they get home early and keep the car clean?
There you have it! A no-fighting, no-drama way to teach responsibility, consequences and real life lessons. LOVE IT!
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