Home Contracts

To reinforce the concept of family rules and guidelines, some families use what is sometimes called a home contract. What this really means is that each family member enters into a written agreement that will be enforced as described in the agreement. In this agreement family rules are clearly stated and consequences are predetermined. This helps parents who may struggle when deciding what to do with their child in the wake of a disobedient episode. With the punishment already established it is easier to implement. The other benefit is that the teen usually has agreed to the consequence before he or she earns it. It is much easier to establish a fair punishment when everyone is calmly sitting in a family council.

If a child repeatedly breaks family rules it would be good to increase the consequences for violation of the rules. Some parents have shared that once the contract is in place and a child disobeys, the parent can be more sympathetic with comments like, "Sorry. You have broken the contract. How can I help you through the consequences?" This doesn't mean that the parent lets the child out of the consequences, but simply shows the sympathy and support that the child needs to deal with them. It is almost like the parent is not punishing the child but the contract is. This shifting of the responsibility to the contract allows the parent to be supportive of the child.

Family Council

With the family organized and functioning somewhat like a business, it is important to keep the communication lines open. Just like businesses meet regularly to correlate, families need to meet often to do the same. Some families meet every week as a family to discuss activities, plan for the week, and review what will be expected of each family member. If a weekly meeting is not feasible, bi-weekly or even monthly meetings will help. This time is ideal for discussing the compliance to family rules, and evaluating how they can best be enforced. Praise for positive activities of each child will go a long way in meetings like this.

Praise Your Child

Every opportunity to praise a child for even the smallest positive choice or action is critical to effective parenting. Some days it will be difficult to find anything nice you can say to or about your child. A wise parent will constantly be on the lookout for any type of positive behavior from their children. The more time you spend with your child the easier it will become to find positive things to say. Earlier we discussed the benefits of developing interest in activities your child is interested in. One benefit of this is the opportunity to praise your child for something good they have done. By doing things with your child you can more easily praise them, but don't try to be a buddy to your child. They have friends. What they need is parents. It is important to remember that you are a parent and not one of the guys, or girls. Some parents go too far and try to win peer acceptance from their youth. This is not what your child is looking for.