Troubled Teen Options

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Why A Home Contract?

The purpose of a home contract is to develop a situation where both parent and child understand what is expected of them, and the consequences or rewards associated with their behavior. It may also be helpful to involve other immediate family members in the construction of the contract.

You may not realize it but the adverse affect of the troubled child directly affects the other children in the family. It is important that the agreement is clearly written and something that all parties can live with. When everyone feels they have reached workable terms the document should be signed and a copy give to all involved.

Give And Take

It is best to work on the agreement when all parties are calm and able to speak with each other in a non argumentative way. Everyone should be open to negotiations and willing to give and take as necessary to reach something that will work. While this is a give and take setting the parent should still maintain control and not give in on areas of most concern. An example of this would be; it may be ok to give a little on the exact hour you would like a child home if they will agree to be drug tested when ever you desire. Some families have gone to a restaurant or a public place to help fight the urge to raise their voices at each other.

Penalties Should Be Realistic

Parents should be careful not to place too serious of a restriction on a child. One reason for this is the parents will have a difficult time following through on a penalty that lasts for two weeks or a month. The other problem is the teen will give up if they are grounded for a very long time. Sometimes taking things away can replace the traditional grounding methods. An example of this would be the child may lose the privilege to talk on the phone for a few days rather than be grounded for a day.

Agreement Should Be Specific

The agreement should be spelled down to the last detail. A manipulative youth can sometimes find a way out of anything if they try hard enough. Make sure to explain in detail what you mean when tell your child they can stay out until midnight on weekends. Are weekends Friday and Saturday or is Sunday included? When referring to negative friends not allowed being with, friends should be listed by name and something stating that they will not associate with friends you have not had the opportunity to meet.

All Parents Should Be Involved

In writing the agreement both parents and any step-parents should be involved in the development of the contract. A contract is only as good as those who are signing it. If you have step-parents that are only partially committed to the agreement it will not work.

All Children Should Be Involved

To help establish unity in the home a contract should be in place for all children in the family. This will help the troubled child feel a little less picked on. It will also enlist the other siblings in helping monitor each other. Each child should sign an agreement and receive a copy when it is complete.

What If The Child Refuses To Participate?

The home contract is usually one of the last stands parents can make with a defiant child prior to seeking outside help. The best way to proceed is to go ahead with the remainder of the family in making what you feel is a fair and equitable agreement. Have everyone else sign the contract. Let the defiant child know that these are the house rules and they will be held to them. If they continue to defy, you will typically need to seek help outside of the home in some kind of placement option. This fact can also be included in the agreement that a defiant non compliant youth will be sent to a boot camp or structured program. This should only be in place if the parents are willing to follow through.

What Should The Contract Include?

Make a list of what your child is doing that is dangerous, or what he or she is doing that could cause them long term problems. Make sure to build your rules around this list. Rewards can include extra privileges, or even the child’s request for additional privileges that may depend on compliance to the existing set of rules. Each child and family is different but here is a list of items you may want to consider.

Parental Concerns:

* Running away or leaving without permission

* Sexual activity

* Smoking, drinking, drug abuse

* Academics

* Coming in on time

* Helping around the house

* Choice of friends

* Anger outbursts

* Counseling, professional help

Teen Concerns

* Running away or leaving without permission

* Curfew

* Driving privileges

* Communications via telephone and computer

* Freedom

* Choice of friends

As mentioned this is just a sampling of complaints we have heard from parents, your list may not include any of these items. Here is an example of what a contract item may look like:

Rule # 1

Running away: Children will not leave the house without permission.

Consequence for breaking Rule # 1:

If child comes home before 10:00 p.m. their only loss of privilege for first offense will be loss of television, and telephone for 2 days. If child stays out all night without permission or notification to parents, they will lose all communication privileges; telephone, email, computer for one week and they will be restricted to the house after school for one week.

Reward for not violating Rule # 1

If the child does not violate rule # 1 for a month he or she will be allowed to stay out an extra hour one weekend night.