Here is a Q&A I did recently about curfews. Enjoy!!!
What are some behaviors a parent should look for before deciding their young teen is ready for a curfew?
As long as parents are in the driver seat, literally, there is no need for a curfew. When your teen has started to do the “walk and hangs” sans parental supervision, It’s time for a curfew.
Why do teens need curfews?
Teens live in the present. Wherever and whatever they’re doing in the moment causes them to lose track of time. They are not thinking: “oh I need to get home to do my homework, or my chores, or for dinner with the fam!” They need help in setting limits, and help in taking responsibility for their time. For some teens, this comes naturally, for most teens it does not.
What are the benefits of a curfew -- for the teen and for the parent?
Curfews can keep teens safe. Too much time out with no time boundaries can put teens in riskier situations. Knowing that there is an end to an evening makes teens more aware of their behavior, and may help they to say no to situations that involve risky behaviors. For parents they are teaching their kids the concept of accountability. This is a life skill and one that will be important as they move into adulthood.
What’s the best way for a parent to go about instituting or establishing a curfew?
This absolutely should be a joint venture between the parent and the teen. Curfews handed down from “parent on high” have the potential for “curfew abuse” This happens when a parents sets an unreasonably early curfew, which the teen is then driven to manipulate. For example if there is an 11 PM curfew which a teen feels is unfair, the parents will get a call at 10:59 PM with a fantastically wonderful excuse from their teen why they can’t be home at 11 PM. Parent gives in and says, fine be home by 11:45 PM. Teen has just learned a bad lesson; my parents can be manipulated, and I can get what I want. If instead the parent had said to the teen, “what time do you think will work for you tonight.” The teen would probably say 11:30 ish. Parents can than say “fine, and what will be the consequence if you are late?” Because the teen has had a say, they are much more likely to take ownership of the curfew and come in on time.
How long should a child have a curfew before a parent considers making it later?
I am not a fan of a rigid set curfew time. I don’t see it as an age question. I think that curfews do depend on what the activity is. I think curfew setting should be a fluid process. If for example a teen is going to hang at a friends house or going to a party, maybe an earlier curfew. If going to a concert or a movie, it may be a later one.
What’s the best way for a parent to handle it when their teen breaks curfew? See below
What’s a parent to do when their teen chooses to ignore/disregard the curfew?
If a parent has used the process I described above by including the teen in curfew and consequence setting it makes this issue very clear and easy. The teen would have already decided what his consequence would be if he was late. This way when this teen screws up all a parent has to say is “sorry this didn’t work out for you, I guess we’ll be hanging next Friday night together.”
When a teen does ignore or disregard, obviously there would be a consequence of not going out one night the next weekend or docking time. But more importantly parents should work with their teen on strategies to be “curfew successful” There should be a conversation on what would help them the next time. Maybe they did lose track of time, and just were having too much fun to leave. In this case, maybe suggesting to their teen they set some kind of alarm on their phone that gives them a heads-up on the time. Or another strategy is that parents can give teens an hour window to call them for a curfew change. Perhaps a teens curfew is at 11:30. Parents may say if you call me by 10:30 for an extension I will consider it. But anytime after that will always be a NO. Again this makes teens take responsibility for time management.
PS: Contact me if you think your high school or middle school would like me to come to do one of my 2 hour seminars: Adolescent Psychology- The Parent Version; Sexting, Texting and Social Networking, What's A Parent To do?; Understanding Your teen's risk for Alcohol and Drug use. What's Your Teen's Personality Style? firstname.lastname@example.org