Does your teen have a set curfew?

Posted on July 20th, 2011, 0 Comments

Summer vacation is in full swing. And this long stretch of days and nights often brings with it a need to revisit your teen’s curfew rules.

Before I had a teen, I thought that setting and enforcing rules about curfew would be easy. It’s not. In fact, curfew – perhaps more than anything else – captures the dance of parenting teens: parents trying to keep their children safe and teens trying to prove to their parents (and to themselves) that they aren’t children anymore and don’t need supervision.

Some parents give their teens a set curfew, requiring them to be home at the same time every night. Other parents tailor their teen’s curfew to the particular situation, adjusting the time based on the teen’s plans for a given evening.


Each curfew strategy has its benefits. Requiring your teen to be home at the same time every night can cut down on the haggling and might even help stabilize your teen’s sleep-wake cycle. On the other hand, adjusting the curfew to fit the plans for a specific evening can give your teen practice in planning and using responsibility to negotiate. In addition, when teens get to participate in the decision making process, they’re more likely to consider the curfew reasonable and to abide by it.

It’s our job as parents to draw clear lines between what is safe and what is not for our teens. Having a curfew helps us draw those lines. So regardless of what strategy you use, your teen needs a curfew, and that curfew usually needs to be followed. Below are some tips to help you get that done.

Don’t have an arbitrary curfew.
Many states and cities have enacted curfews for underage individuals, so before setting a curfew for your teen, check what your local law permits. Then take maturity into account, expanding your teen’s freedom and responsibility when they’ve earned it.

Consider negotiating with your teen.
It’s wise to be open to letting your teen negotiate, perhaps trading hour for hour – particularly for special occasions. For example, you might allow your teen to stay out an hour later for Friday night’s dance if they agree to come in an hour earlier on Saturday night.

Be awake to notice.
Teens won’t see your curfew guidelines as worth following if you’re not awake to notice. By being awake you’ll be able to appreciate their punctuality and hold them accountable when they’re tardy. So you need to stay awake or, even better, ask your teen to awaken you. If they have to awaken you, they’ll just naturally be close enough for you to get a good look at (and whiff of) them.

Having a curfew that is reasonable and regularly updated can provide some much needed braking action for the teen brain – a brain that is in overdrive when it comes to rewarding thrill seeking and risk taking. A curfew can give your teen just the excuse they need to opt out of their friends’ wackiest ideas: Man, rolling down the hill in a dumpster at midnight would be so fun! But my lame parents will kill me if I’m not home by my 11:30 curfew.



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