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Good Group Contracts for Teens

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

A behavior contract helps establish appropriate behaviors for a teen and details the consequences of disobeying the contract and privileges earned by keeping the contract, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s “Freedom and Responsibility Contracts” activity sheet. In a support group, your teen might sign a contract not to reveal things talked about in the group. For a sports team or extra-curricular activity, the contract could specify attending practices or requirements for competition participation.

Confidentiality Contracts

In a support group, a confidentiality contract is common, although not all teen support groups required a signed contract for each session. Without an assurance that what is said in the group will be help in confidence, many teens refuse to share what they think, feel or experience, Contract wording could include a promise not to share what is said in group, the names of those who belong to the group and the potential of being removed from the group if a teen violates the contract.

Teen Activity Contract

In a teen athletics group or academic competition group, the group contract can specify what is expected from each teen in relationship to competition. The contract can specify when practices occur, how many practices a teen can miss before he is pulled from the competition and detail conduct during group practices and competition. Specific wording could include uniform and fee requirements as well, so each team member is clear what her responsibility is prior to any competition.

Contract Specifics

Each area of the contract must provide specific details about group expectations and the consequences for breaking and keeping each item. Itemizing details prevents the teens from misunderstanding what you expect and from trying to wiggle out of keeping the spirit and the letter of the contract. Instead of writing, "Show up for practices," cover details such as being on time, not talking when entering a practice in progress, showing respect for others by not interrupting and letting someone know if you will not be able to come if you have an assigned partner to practice with.

Creating a Contract

Ask each teen member involved in obeying or supervising obedience of the contract to suggest contract items, advises the Teen With Problems website. This would include all teen members, sponsors and coaches or facilitators. The contract instruction document notes that teens often recommend severe consequences for offenses against the contract, so you might have to temper their suggestions with mercy. Discuss the suggestions in a group meeting and try to reach a consensus on contract items before you create the final document. Have everyone sign the contract and retain a copy. You can also post a copy of the contract in a public area. When your teen fails to follow the rules in the contract, a sponsor, coach or facilitator can point her back to her signature if she tries to wiggle out of the consequences.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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