Here is your free Summer Contract to use!
My anxiety about summer usually begins right after spring break. I begin to think: “How much sleep are they going to lose?”, “How much screen time will they be fighting me for?”, and “How much of their education is going to waste?” All valid concerns that most parents of school age kids think about!
One tool that I am going to use to rein in my summer anxiety and my kids’ screen time is called a Summer Contract.
Before diving into it, I recommend getting clear as to what your expectations REALLY are for the summer. Some questions to ponder might be: 1. What does summer cooperation look like to me? Is it a rigid schedule? Is it no schedule, but with expectations of help, or is it something in between? 2. What is truly realistic for you and your kids? Are you working full time, but still expect help? Are you a Stay at Home parent who just wants to have fun? It might also help to reflect back on your own childhood and think about: What worked to motivate you over the summer? And, did you always cooperate with your parents and siblings over the summer? What helped?
After you have gotten clear, set an individual appointment with each child. You should create one contract per child. Be sure to choose a calm and connected time so that your kids are more open to it. If this is your first time doing something like this it is helpful to say to your child, “We are trying something new this summer and I need your help in making it a success.” And, “This is really going to help everyone in the family; can I count on your input?”
Explain that there are going to be certain expectations of them for the summer and that you want their feedback on how best to ensure that those expectations are met.
Only pick the major things that you foresee being a challenge, for example: Reading time, screen time, chores and bedtimes, then go through each item with your child. Ask a lot of questions; really try to get their feedback. If reading time is important over the summer and you want it done every day, give the child the option to have input on what time they’d like to do it.
Also, be clear with what might happen if they don’t adhere to the contract. Will you need to renegotiate or will there be some type of logical consequence? Continue to engage your child as to what they think the consequences should be for infractions. It is interesting to see what they come up with and oftentimes it is worse than what we would suggest! And, of course, you can always say, “No, that doesn’t work for me, what else we can come up with?” (Side note on consequences: They are always more effective when they are revealed in advance, related to the infraction, and respectful – delivered in a respectful tone and realistic. )
Why include children so wholeheartedly in the dialogue? Because you get more buy in and they feel more engaged in the process (and to the family!), and they are more likely to follow through.
Once you have the items written up, both parties should sign the contract signifying their agreement. Post it in a conspicuous place. When they begin to whine about more screen time, simply point to the contract.
Your child will most likely test the limits of the contract, but with consistency and follow through you will have a whole lot of peace, fewer arguments, and your children will be smarter! (Just kidding, but hopefully they’ll retain more!) Hope this helps!