How to Create a Behavior Contract with Teens

Prevent and Address Behavior Problems with a Written Contract

Create a behavior contract that outlines your expectations.
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Whether she wants a smartphone or she insists on a later curfew, it's hard to know when your teen is ready for new privileges. A behavior contract can be a powerful way to offer more freedom while also helping your teen become more responsible.

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 10 p.m. 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 he needs to do to keep that privilege.

When your teen starts driving, establish a behavior contract that makes your expectations clear and the consequences clear. Tell your teen you will take away his driving privileges if he gets caught speeding or if he's texting while he's 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 as well. Take his input 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 when he engages in a contract with an employer or a bank. 

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 down the contract and make sure that both you and your teen sign it.

You can also create an electronic contract. It's less likely to get lost if you make a contract online. Use email or look for an online program that will allow you to send and sign the document electronically. 

Although there are plenty of printable contracts online, it's best to create a contract that is specific to your teen's needs. Here are examples of privileges that you may want to give to your teen with a contract:

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