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Behavior Contracts
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Using a Substance Use Contract with your Teen

By: Chris Theisen

Are you struggling with a teen that has a substance use problem?
Is your teen hanging with a crowd that is known to abuse substances?
Are you worried about your teen’s potential to use or abuse substances?


A great way to address the issue of substance use (or abuse) with your teen is to draw up a “Substance Use Contract” or “Substance Abuse Contract.”

Whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, “bath salts,” cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, or something as simple as chewing tobacco, most parents are NOT okay with their teen using and/or abusing dangerous and/or illegal substances. In fact, most parents would do anything to keep their teens away from these risky and readily available drugs.

“You just never know,” one mother recently commented, “Some kids are just really good at hiding their substance usage.”

She’s right. Clever teens have a way of talking their way out of almost anything. The excuses they come up with for why their eyes are bloodshot or why they smell like alcohol are often times quite innovative. Parents need to be alert and proactive when it comes to addressing the issue of substance use and abuse.

Constructing an effective substance use contract (or agreement) is one way to address the issue. A well-written behavior contract sets firm limits and clear expectations with regards to teen behavior, especially as it relates to substance use.

There are several stipulations that should be included in a behavior contract that addresses substance use. First, it is important to clarify exactly which substances are not to be used. This list should basically include any substance that it dangerous, illegal, or which has the ability to be misused. The contract should also include a clause that warns the teen of the consequences that are likely to result if he or she is to ignore the stipulations set forth in the contract.

As a parent, it is also important to educate one’s self on the various warning signs of drug use and to learn certain slang that may be associated with drug usage. There are numerous websites that list warning signs for drug usage, including what to look for and what to do if you suspect that your teen is using or abusing substances or illegal drugs.

Some of the more common warning signs (or “red flags”) to look out for are:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden change in friends (new social circle)
  • Secretiveness
  • Sneaky behaviors
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Smell of alcohol or marijuana
  • Sudden change in personality
  • Sudden change in sleeping habits


  • The above list is only a partial one. As stated earlier, there are many websites that offer more extensive lists.

    Parents can do two things to take action against t heir teen’s potential use of substances: they can learn to recognize the warning signs of substance use and they can work to create a behavior contract that addresses substance use.

    TeenBehaviorContracts.com offers a pre-written Substance Use Contract which can be downloaded as part of a larger package of teen behavior contracts. Visit their site for more information or to purchase their Teen Contracts Package.


    About the Author

    Chris Theisen, owner of Complete Parenting Solutions, has the tools you need to manage your teens challenging behavior.
     

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