Draw one up with your kids and sign on the dotted line. The results could change your relationship!
If you think about it, you sign contracts for many important things, so why should your children be any different? But like with any important negotiation, you have to play your cards right.
Deborah Gilboa suggests that you make a contract as simple as possible. She says to define:
Gilboa has a contract with her own son that you can model your own contract after. "Our elementary school son wanted to play football this season. The hours are long and we worried about the impact on the rest of his life. Gilboa's contract, outlined below, has been very effective:
"If a parent feels he or she cannot enforce a contract, I would not engage in the contract, or I would suggest rewriting so that he or she is more comfortable with the provisions. An unenforced contract is counterproductive," says Dr. John Duffy.
"It takes away from a parent's authority, and suggests to the child that the implied structure isn't really there at all. In the end, though they would never admit it, children feel less safe under such an arrangement as it lacks enforcement," says Duffy.
"Many families are looking for a quick-fix checklist of family rules. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all," says Daniel Trussel, Ph.D.
Trussel recommends the family charter technique. "It's effective because it publishes the family rules so everyone clearly understands what is expected of them, places the responsibility on the child to decide if breaking a rule is worth the established consequence to build on self-determination and making "right" choices, it adds consistency to parenting, it increases secure attachment in families, parents don't have to develop consequences for broken rules "on-the-fly."
According to Trussel, there should be consequences that can be both additive and subtractive. "Additive consequences include additional chores, responsibilities and activities whereas subtractive consequences include taking away privileges, physical items and most importantly time away from family. The most effective consequences are immediate, achievable and for a specific time. The phrase “grounded for life” is not a consequence at all and most parents are really not prepared to refuse to allow a child to have any social activity for an extended period of time," says Trussel.
"Consequently, being grounded loses it’s meaning to the child and becomes a 'waiting game' to see how long it will be before the parent gives in. When a parent says, 'you are grounded for a month,' only to begin to make exceptions (the Homecoming dance, a call from the child’s best friend, an opportunity to try out for a school play, a visit to the zoo because the rest of the family had planned for it), grounded is not grounded anymore," explains Trussel.
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