We've all heard the “He said/She said” arguments from our kids. Someone said they would do something and then later backed out on the deal denying that they ever made the deal in the first place. Who do you believe? How do you settle an argument when both parties are saying something different.
Either way, someone will be mad at you, and you may be siding with wrong person.
How do you solve this problem? How are problems like this solved in the real world? A court room. I don't want my kids having to go to the judge every time they have a dispute. That's neither healthy nor financially prudent.
My job as a parent is to prepare my kids for real life. How, in “real” life are conflicts like this avoided? Contracts. If you put it in writing, then no one can dispute who said what. Everything that was agreed upon is in writing. You can't deny what you put in writing.
How ridiculous is it to ask my kids to write a contract? I don't think it's ridiculous at all. Too many times, I think we don't ask our kids to do grown-up things when we should. We're afraid they can't handle it, that they're too young, or that it will make them grow up too fast. On the contrary, I think we will help them grow into responsible adults if we teach them what's right while they're young.
Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train your children up in the way they should go so that when they're old they won't depart from it.” Many believe this only applies to training them in Biblical knowledge. I think God's words go much deeper than that, however. I am a firm believer that one should read the ENTIRE passage and not just one scripture in order to know God's meaning behind that scripture. I believe God intends us to not only train our children in Biblical knowledge, but also in the knowledge and practice of what it means to live a life of integrity. The rest of the passage talks about honoring your word, and behaving in a Godly manner. God's wants us to train our children to have good character in EVERY area of their lives.
I believe one way we can do that is by expecting our children to behave responsibly and to honor their word from the time they are little. As soon as they are old enough, you can teach them how to make sure everyone's word is honored by putting their promises in writing.
We started doing this about 6 months ago. I'd heard one too many he said/she said arguments and knew there had to be a better way. From those fights was born the family contract. If you switch toys with a friend or family member, if you give them a toy, or if you sell them a toy, you put it in writing. That way all parties know exactly what is expected of them, and there is a written record of the deal for the judge's (Mommy's) sake. Furthurmore, the contract must be notarized by an official (Mommy or Daddy). No contract is official until the notary has read the contract and made sure all sides are in agreement.
The amount of arguing saved by these contracts has been INVALUABLE! To boot, my children are learning how to write a legal contract that fully protects both parties yet is legible to the “common” man (or child).