Setting a Curfew for Your Teen

Posted by Janet Heinsler on March 19, 2015

Being a parent is one tough job; you are responsible for your child’s safety at all times. This is not too hard to do when your kids are young and can’t get out and about on their own, but how do you keep an eye on them as they become teens?  Not so easy right?  Many claim that curfews are just a way of keeping them safe while you are not around. It's a way of communicating with them. The question of whether a curfew is needed or not has always been a controversial one, with teens thinking they don’t need one, and the parents thinking one is needed to keep them safe. Those in favor of setting a curfew give the following reasons.
Brain Development. Teen’s brains are not fully developed, which means that they are not able to make rational decisions where they base their decision on needs not wants. They are still strongly influenced by peer pressure which will affect their choices.
Responsibility. As children get older they seek more and more freedom; it is the parent’s job to teach their teen that with this new found freedom comes responsibility. They learn this responsibility in part by sticking to the curfews that have been set up for them.

Safety. Kids need to be protected because they will sometimes make bad choices about staying out and hanging around with the wrong kids. A curfew is to protect our kids, not to punish them.
Consequences. One needs to set up consequences for breaking the curfew but they need to be reasonable. By setting up fair consequences you teach the child to be responsible.
So now that we know it is a great idea to have curfews, how should a parent go about setting them up?  Parents' views differ greatly on this. Some parents don’t let their kids out after 6 or 8 on school nights, but then others have a 10 P.M curfew on school night.  What is the best for your child?  When it comes to setting up a curfew experts agree that it is best to include the child in discussions about what their curfew should be. This is important so they understand why the curfew is what it is.
Age appropriate. Sit down with your teen and decide what time is appropriate for their age. Remember that the 13- year old will most likely need to be in earlier than the 18 year old. Get ideas from your teen and come up with a time that seems to satisfy both your needs. It is OK to compromise; remember you don’t have to win all the time. Do set up a blanket curfew and if need be you can adjust this when there is a special event. Don’t allow them to go out the door and say they will see you later. Make the curfew time understood so that if they violate it they will have to face the consequences.
Communicate. Make it clear what the curfew time is so there is no wiggle room. You don’t want you child claiming they did not know what is was. You should use both verbal and written means of communicating with your child. Tell them what it is and then place it on the refrigerator or some other center area so that it is clear to all.
Set a buffer. Decide on how much leeway you’re willing to give them before they are found in violation of the curfew. Some set this at 5 minutes others give 15 minutes.  Before you set the original time and the leeway you need to ask yourself how willing you are to wait up until the time they are supposed to be home, and can your nerves wait a total of 15 minutes for them to be late.
Consequences. If the teen is late, you need to execute the consequences without fail. Some parents have a system where if they are late this will affect their curfew the next night. For example, if your leeway is five minutes and they are five minutes late you move their curfew up by a half hour, 10 minutes late then an hour. You set what works for you but then you need to follow it through or they will never come home on time again.