A family contract is an agreement, in writing, that states a set of value-based rules everyone agrees on. 

It sounds somewhat formal, is that useful? 

When it comes to parenting teenagers, yes!

Your family contract can look as formal or informal as you choose. The most effective ones are often scrawled out on the back of a paper bag – because that was handy when the perfect contract-making opportunity naturally occurred. 

Other family contracts may start their lives on the back of a paper bag and progress to another round of talks followed by a more formalised document. These can be effective too as the formal document can now be stored as a jpeg file and shared with the teens so it’s kept on their social media 😂how sneaky is that?

Our family contracts are unique to us. Find what works for you and stick with it.

What’s the point of having a family contract?

A family contract brings clarity. 

It’s an agreement that’s been struck after discussions around what works, and what doesn’t work in a family. 

Our adolescents are in a transition phase from child to adult. It’s not their fault they’re teenagers. Their bodies are putting them through puberty and they are reacting accordingly. 

Having a contract to refer to is super handy. 

It means you have:

  1. Identified a problem.
  2. Talked with them about what you think is acceptable and not acceptable.
  3. Listened to their ideas about what they think is acceptable and not acceptable.
  4. Reached an agreement.

This agreement can now be formalised into a contract that gives very clear guidelines … to both the rangatahi AND the parent. 

What does a contract need?

  1. The names of the people who are agreeing to the contract. This is really important and can be repeated at the beginning and end of the contract.
  2. A clear statement of what the contract covers.
  3. A reason for the clear statement.
  4. A timeframe for completion of agreed behaviour.
  5. A consequence if the behaviour is not carried out.
  6. A place to sign.
  7. A date.

Here’s an example for you

We, (insert names) agree the bench needs to be kept tidy. 

This is for three reasons:

  1. Hygiene – ants are a nuisance.
  2. Consideration – the person using the bench next doesn’t want to have to clean it before they start using it. 
  3. Self-responsibility – we’re all capable of cleaning up after ourselves in shared house areas. 

We (insert names) agree to leave the bench tidy within 15 minutes of using it. 

Should we (insert names) fail to do so, we agree to take on the responsibility for an extra turn at emptying the dishwasher. 



This contract was super useful for a while, specifically when my teenagers were coming home before me and helping themselves to afternoon snacks. By the time three teenagers had made themselves toast, 2-minute noodles, and other assorted teenage favoured foods, the bench was a bomb site. 

Once the new habit of cleaning up after themself was established, the contract disappeared from the fridge and the occasional verbal reminder was all that was needed. 

Now, my slightly older adolescents will either clean up after themselves independently or say, “Leave the bench Mum, I’ll get it done.” 

And they do 😊

For those of you who have read this and think, “OMG, lifesaver!” use this link to download a sample contract.