Parents Using Driving Contracts with their Teenagers

Raising teenagers is a difficult task especially raising teenagers in today’s world.  Before the year 2000 most patients had to worry about school, amount of time the teenager was on the phone and what their teenager was doing when they went out with friends or a date.  These are still major areas of concern, but they are made more difficult due to the internet.  Take going out with friends as an example, teenagers often look online for parties to go to in the weekend.  They will make arrangements to get there with people they just met online.  Additionally, they have no idea for sure what is or isn’t allowed at the party and the party may go one until 4am.  This would cause many parents to worry and it should.

This is the reason that I have always stressed behavior contracts with teenagers.  It gives parents a chance to discuss their concerns with their teenagers and to also set limits regarding appropriate behavior.  No parent wants their teenager to fail school or to get hurt while out with friends.  Since the prefrontal cortex of a teenager’s brain is not fully developed, at times they have difficulties making appropriate decisions.  Again they may physically look like an adult, but mentally they are still very impulsive and at times act more like 5th graders.  This is why contracts can help teenagers understand where their limits are and what will happen at home if they violate the limits.

Besides a contract regarding school and homework, a contract regarding driving is very important.  Due to the new laws some teenagers are not driving at 16 years old and waiting until they are 18 years old.  When they are 18, many of the new laws do not apply to them.  However, whether they are 16 or 18 years old, they are driving your car so you are financially responsible if they are in an accident.  Additionally, whether they are 16 or 18 years old, no patent wants their child seriously hurt in a car accident.  With that being said, below is the contact I recommend patients use for their teenagers regarding driving.  I recommend you use this contact whether they are 16 years old or 18 years old.  Below are the essential parts of a driving contract that I recommend:

1. Have some baseline rules.

The driving contract for new drivers should include baseline rules to discourage behaviors that lead to accident and injury or death. These behaviors should include never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, never using a cell phone while driving, never speeding, and always wearing a seatbelt.

2. Include consequences.

The teen driving contract should also include specific consequences for violating the rules. Parents must be willing to enforce the rules in the teen driving contract. Otherwise your teenager will have no real incentive to follow them. Making the consequences specific—you will lose access to the car for a week, if … —is helpful. That way, everyone will be on the same page about what will happen if the rules are broken.

3. Always offer a “Safe Passage” clause.

Parents should institute a “safe-passage” clause in their contract. If they are ever concerned about getting into a car, as a driver or a passenger, you will pick them up. No questions asked. Save the discussion for the next morning or, better, yet several days later.

4. Be willing to enforce the contract.

The effectiveness of the teen driver contract directly correlates to your enforcement of it. These kinds of rules encourage teenagers to take the responsibility of driving seriously, while also helping them resist peer pressure.

The contract is basic and everyone understands the consequences if the contract is broken.  This can prevent a lot of arguments.  I recommend that parents and the teenager all sign the contract and all receive a copy of it.  This is an example of a contract for driving, but you can use contracts for many issues such as homework.  I have found that many parents become overwhelmed trying to write a contract.  Therefore, I have included this link https://adayinourshoes.com/behavior-contract-templates-elementary-teen/. It has templates to over 27 behavior contracts you can use with teenagers and they are free to download.  Hopefully, this will make using contracts easier.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims.  For more information regarding his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

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