FamilyLife Blog

The Contract With My “Adult Child”

by | Mar 3, 2020 | Developmental Stages, Parenting

They consider themselves adults and (at times) so do we. I’m referring to that awkward age when kids have graduated, and yet still live at home. Our first summer with an “adult” in our home was a bit frustrating for me. I had some expectations that were not being met, and as a result, my frustration ascended while our relationship descended. While venting to my friend/mentor, she stated unforgettably:

“Oh, Ella you think 18 is bad, wait until 19 arrives!” “Yikes, it’s going to get worse?!” my mind screamed back.

She wisely suggested that we clarify expectations in the form of a contract.

“Oh and by the way, don’t expect too much, it’s not worth damaging your relationship.”

So, I wrote up a contract. Equipped with a plan, I shared news of The Contract with my friends. Everyone I told nodded knowingly, while muttering, “Of course you did.” What can I say? I like structure!

In the end, it really helped to alleviate frustration that was mostly due to the lack of clarity of my expectations. This little push helped my daughter to take more responsibility, and helped me not to expect too much from her.

Our contract covers things like: expected chores, rent, vehicle usage, and costs.  We also included consequences. Here are some examples:

Chores

You are expected to clean the upstairs bathroom, vacuum upstairs, clean your room, and clean and vacuum the Minivan. Weekly deadline: Saturday 3 p.m. — NO exceptions.

Consequences:  $______ (fairly steep — use what motivates your child) fine each DAY they are not completed. Upon the third day at 3 p.m., vehicle/cell phone/screen privileges are suspended until they are complete AND checked by a parent.

Dishes as per the family policy are expected. We need you to help make meals and drive the kids as needed. Walk the dog two times a week, for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Rent

Starting September 1st.

Rent is calculated on a per university course basis. While you are in school full-time, we will support you; therefore, no rent. We consider full-time as ______ credit hours. Each three or four credit class you take will reduce rent by $______. Full rent will be $______.

Purpose

The purpose of this contract is to alleviate tension and frustration by having clear expectations in writing.

The goal with all of the above is to move you to be an educated, independent adult with the life skills required for independence.

Signature:  ________________________                        Date:  ________________________

This clarity has really alleviated the tension. Having our expectations written provides a reference point — i.e. no misunderstandings. I try not to get upset about things that are not in the contract. It’s best if you can involve your “adult” in the discussion — their input is important.

As this first year has unfolded, there is a lot of progress. The tensions have really smoothed out because our expectations have been clear. One year later, I can genuinely call my daughter an adult without the quotation marks; she has matured a lot. Reflecting on her growth, I give her credit for making great choices, but I also believe this contract and the responsibility she was forced to take pointed her in the right direction with a good swift kick to get moving. For some kids, this is just what they need (although they don’t like it).

Don’t we all sometimes need to be directed and given motivation? I know I do.