Changing our mindset when raising our kids can help us understand the parenting skills taught by recovery centers, like Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado. During parenting weekends and workshops, Fire Mountain’s co-founder, Aaron Huey, and other staff explore the issues that parents are dealing with today while raising their kids. One way to shift our mindsets while our kids are going through challenging behaviors or addiction is to remember that we are not raising children. Instead, we are raising the adults that our children will become.
Teaching Lifelong Lessons to Our Kids
During a parent coaching call posted on “Beyond Risk and Back,” Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey discusses “Contracts and Consequences.” Aaron talks about the importance of preparing our kids for the world rather than protecting them from the world. As parents, we might want to shield our children from any challenges to protect them and keep them safe. However, we can protect them by guiding them through their challenges rather than keeping them from feeling negative emotions, like frustration, sadness, grief, anger, anxiety, and other natural feelings of the human experience.
During a challenge or crisis, we can look for the life lesson within. When our kids want to quit a sport because another team or player is better, what is the lesson they learn if we allow them to quit? Are they learning a skill that will benefit or hurt them during their lifetime? How can we turn this around for their growth? We can help our kids with open communication through the use of behavioral contracts.
Fostering an Environment of Openness and Honesty
To best help our kids, we need to know what is going on in their lives. We can build strong bonds with our kids through shared interests and activities. We can establish routines, like family game nights or dinners that can bring us closer as a family. When we discuss our kids’ interests and daily lives without judgment, our kids feel safe and secure speaking to us openly and honestly. By building a sense of trust, our kids know that they can turn to us when they are going through challenges and struggling with serious issues. With contracts, our kids can understand what to expect from us when they are struggling.
How Does a Behavioral Contract Inspire Open Communication?
Behavioral contracts (a sample can be found here), one of the fundamental aspects of Fire Mountain’s parent and family coaching, can help teach your kid to communicate openly and honestly. When discussing behavioral contracts, kids and parents need to negotiate to come to an agreement. The goal is to invite your child to come to the table and find where their desires and your expectations meet. These contracts can teach your child to:
- Solidify their position
- Think critically about their behaviors
- Negotiate terms of a contract
- Hold a healthy debate
- Communicate their concerns
- Ask for support and help for success
When your child can sit down with you and negotiate a behavioral contract, they are now engaging in a problem-solving technique that they can use in their adult life. You are not just dealing with a child with problematic behaviors. You are teaching your child skills that they can use to continue living a healthy and happy life as adults.
More Tips for Successful Behavioral Contracts
Creating a behavioral contract can help to keep your home healthy and peaceful. Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey has some additional tips for parents to keep in mind when drafting agreements:
- Contracts are not about telling kids what they should or should not do. Instead, the contract is put in terms of consequences, like “I’m willing to provide _____________ for someone who does __________.”
- “I will let you borrow my car if you are coming home by 10:00 pm.”
- “I’m willing to pay college tuition for someone who studies and gets good grades.”
- Before negotiation begins, think of what you are and are not willing to do as parents.
- Remember that these contracts are for your kids to do the work for what they want!
- Have your bargaining chips ready. For example, if you would like your child to be home by 10:30 pm on Friday nights, expect your kid to want a later curfew. Start with a more restrictive expectation and allow your child to negotiate what they think is fair.
- For more tips, listen to “Contracts and Consequences” on “Beyond Risk and Back.”
Shifting our perspective from “raising kids” to “raising future adults” can help us understand the value of negotiating behavioral contracts. We can change our mindset from dealing with a problematic child to teaching a future adult the skills needed for success in life. Recovery from addiction, behavioral issues, or mental health concerns requires developing life skills to cope with challenges when they occur. We cannot protect our children forever. They will need to deal with life on life’s terms as adults. We can prepare them during their childhood and teen years to be responsible, honest, and conscientious adults. If your child is struggling with behaviors like addiction, cutting, promiscuity, running away–or is dealing with challenging mental health issues–residential treatment might be the next right step for your family. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, is here for kids and their parents. We want your family’s fire to burn brightest! Call us today at (303) 443-3343.