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Making a Parenting Plan

couple talking

You wouldn't take off on a family vacation without knowing where you were going, how long you'd be gone or how much it would cost. So why would you make the even more important journey through parenthood without a plan?

Developing a parenting plan is like having a roadmap you can follow to find the best way to teach and care for your children. A parenting gives you multiple skills to use in many situations to resolve conflict and build positive relationships with your children. It also lets you develop a detailed, positive strategy for dealing with problem behaviors before they become out-of-control issues.

What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is an agreement between spouses or primary caregivers to use appropriate, effective tools in a consistent manner with the children in their care. That means following the three "C's" of parenting every day - courage, commitment and consistency - as you formulate and implement your plan. Start by writing down the main components, which can include:

  • How to teach new, appropriate behaviors
  • How to stay calm in stressful situations
  • How to model the positive behavior you want your children to learn
  • How to determine the root of your children's behavioral problems
  • How to accept the unique and different personalities in your household

Develop guidelines or signposts that will help you and other caregivers know when you're on track and when you've taken a detour. Give yourself the freedom to be flexible with your plan so you can effectively adjust it for new situations as they arise.

How to Make a Parenting Plan
The easiest way to start using your parenting plan is to build it around one problem area at a time. Identify the problem you want to address. Describe it in detail and note the appropriate behavior you want your child to use instead. Think of a variety of positive consequences that will encourage the good behavior and negative consequences that discourage the bad behavior. Remember to stay calm whenever the bad behavior occurs and be consistent with your consequences and how you give them.

For example, if your son lies to you on a regular basis, identify the problem as "dishonesty" and replace it by teaching your son the skill of "being honest." Tell your son the steps to being honest (telling all facts; not omitting information; offering truth; calmly accepting responsibility for one's behavior) and practice these steps daily through role-play situations. Discipline lying with negative consequences like losing privileges and reward honesty with positive consequences like getting privileges and praise.

Having a plan will give you the confidence and support you need to create and use teaching tools that will help your children grow into responsible and successful adults. Consistent use of a good parenting plan creates a positive family atmosphere filled with tolerance, support and love.

Build your own parenting agreement using our Cooperation and Consistence Parenting Plan.