Setting Up A Family Contract

Just the title of this blog may make you shudder a little, particularly if you have teen RAD kiddos. It’s important to find ways to set boundaries and establish rules and maybe when ongoing conversations are hard, a contract can help. A contract or agreement or plan can take away some of the drama or confusion surrounding expectations. So setting up a family contract where you get buy in from the entire family can make for a less stressful family life.

When August was in elementary school, we would have battles over clothing. Our first family contract came about clothes! I couldn’t deal with it anymore so our agreement became this: what he wears has to be clean, it has to be occasion appropriate, it has to be weather appropriate. After that, I didn’t have a say. Unless it was a major event or holiday. Then I pulled rank.

We certainly had a contract when he got his first phone. He had time limits. There was a GPS on it and he knew that if I ever looked for him on the find my phone app and he had turned it off the phone was gone.

Now let me clarify. These aren’t the same as chore charts or weekly behavior expectations where kiddos get stickers every day they set the table. For one, RAD kiddos are all about control and immediate gratification which makes these tools not so effective. These are broader agreements covering bigger issues. Which should trickle down into the everyday activities. That’s the hope!

“A little bit” may have a different definition in our world!

There are some great samples out there that I found which you can customize to work for your family. Here are a bunch. The idea is to come to an agreement before the fight over the subject can begin! I can’t promise this will solve every issue. But if you approach each topic with respecting your kiddos opinions and giving them some control over the outcome (within reason), then you are more likely to get buy-in and ultimately compliance.

The key then is, how do you approach these conversations? Of course, the expectation is that your RAD kiddo will try and ask for the moon. And will want to control everything while agreeing to nothing. That’s the RAD way, right? I think the important part it to make sure it’s a low-stress conversation that’s focused on the goals, not the process. If it feels like rules being imposed, you’re going to get immediate push back. Call it a contract, call it a plan, call it an agreement; whatever will sound the best for your children’s understanding.

Then when you enter into this agreement, you all have to have “skin in the game”. This can’t just be you telling your kiddos what you want them to do. You have to make promises of what you will do also. Remember, it’s called a “Family contract” and all the members of the family have to have responsibilities to make it work. So you have to think about what you’re going to own up to, what you’re going to promise (no yelling, some levels of freedom, getting that family pet, etc.).

This can be the start of great family conversations and healthy interactions. Once you set the stage, let everyone know that anyone can initiate a family agreement. It puts everyone in the mindset of leveling the playing field and treating each other equally and with respect.

Until next time,

Shannon