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 my frustration 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 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; mostly due to clarity of expectations. This little push helped her to take more responsibility, and helped me not to stop expecting too much.
Our contract covers things like: rent, expected chores, vehicle usage and costs. We also included consequences. Here is an example:
You are expected to clean the upstairs bathroom, vacuum upstairs, clean your room, and clean and vacuum the Minivan. Weekly deadline: Saturday 3:00 – NO exceptions
Consequences: ______ (fairly steep – use what motivates your child) fine each DAY they are not completed. Upon third day at 3:00 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 dog 2 times a week, minimum 15 minutes.
Starting September 1st
Rent is calculated on a per university course basis. While you are in school full-time we will support you; no rent. We consider full-time _____ credit hours. Each 3 or 4 credit class you take will reduce rent by ____dollars. Full rent will be ______dollars.
The purpose 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 it 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 unfolded, there is lots of progress; the tensions have really smoothed out because our expectations have been clear. One year later, I can genuinely call her 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.
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