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Behavior Contracts

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University reported in their sixth annual national teen substance abuse survey that parents who are "'hands-on' – parents who have established a household culture of rules and expectations for their teens' behavior – raise children who are less at risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs." In addition, they said "Contrary to conventional wisdom, teens in 'hands-on' households are more likely to have an excellent relationship with their parents than teens with 'hands-off' parents." The survey concluded that, "parents should be parents to their teenagers, not pals."

Behavior contracts are one of the simplest but most overlooked techniques available to help parents through the difficult preteen and teenage years. When used properly, written contracts can be incredibly successful in preventing or stopping unwanted behavior.

Behavior contracts work because all children want and need structure in their lives. Written agreements will bring a calming effect to them because they know the rules and their consequences and find that very reassuring. In addition, written contracts will reduce the number of disagreements between parents and their kids because the rules were previously discussed and agreed upon in advance.

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The Strong-Willed Out-of-Control Teen

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing teens with serious behavioral problems. Disrespect, anger, violent rages, self-injury, running away from home, school failure, hanging-out with the wrong crowd, drug abuse, theft, and legal problems are just some of the behaviors that parents of defiant teens will have to learn to control.

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