Kids believe the curfew is their archnemesis, set by parents as part of some diabolical plan to control them. Parents, pubescent conventional wisdom dictates, do not want their kids to have fun.
As a parent, you know curfews are about ensuring kids get sleep, knowing where they are, and keeping them safe. Despite your good intentions, setting them may lead to the deafening squawking sound of an entire flock of geese. Frankly, it’s a noise you can do without.
There are some ways to reduce the protests when setting curfews for your kids. Like everything else you do as a parent, you need to be strategic. You must balance your parentally justified concerns with the inherently social concerns of your teenagers.
Of course, you can just dictate curfews for your kids and enforce them unilaterally. Or you could try a few things that your children may actually embrace. Here are some considerations to guide you along the way.
Discuss the Importance of Maintaining Contact
Your kids need to understand that your motivation for virtually everything you do as a parent is about protecting them. The restrictions necessary for their health and well-being are parental responsibilities. Maintaining contact with your kids is the only way you’ll know they’re safe.
Technology has made it easier for parents to stay in touch with their kids, no matter where they’re spending time. But that doesn’t mean technology replaces the time parents and kids should spend under the same roof. Both protect kids from external dangers as well as the dangers they may unwittingly pose to themselves. That’s why curfews and technology go hand in hand.
The struggle is trying to determine when your kids are mature enough to be responsible with their time and technology. Start by making sure you choose a safe phone for kids when you want them to have that tool. Discuss with them how that phone doesn’t replace the connection of them being safe at home.
Then, talk to your kids about the reasons parents set curfews and have the discussion early. As your kids progress through their teen years, they’ll push boundaries more and more. It’s smart to set reasonable expectations about curfews and responsibility early to limit the pushback later.
Remind them that their cell phone is a necessary and useful tool for curfew compliance. If they’re going to miss curfew, they should know they must check in with you. Kids may try a lot of excuses, but not having a way to call won’t be one of them.
Let Them Help Set Their Curfews
As an adult, you understand the power of buy-in. Everyone who buys into policies invests themselves in them. That investment makes them much more than just tenable.
Setting curfews for your kids can benefit from their buy-in in the same way. If they help establish them, they’re more likely to abide by them, sans squawking. Ownership is a great motivator.
Talk about the number of hours they need to sleep for their health. Address laws such as curfews on drivers with learner permits or community youth curfews. Without getting too specific, talk about the scientific evidence that young brains aren’t equipped to make mature decisions.
There are variables to discuss, such as nights of the week, where they’re going, and what they’re doing. If you have more than one child, age is an important factor. It stands to reason that older kids will have later curfews.
Finally, make sure you let them talk about their friends’ curfews and give them sufficient consideration. It’s tough to be the only 16-year-old who has to be home by 8 on a weekend night. Kids face enough potential for social shaming already.
Of course, you have the ultimate say in setting your children’s curfews. But letting them weigh in and giving their thoughts due consideration may ease everyone’s pain. Buy-in, in any situation, can smooth a lot of ruffled feathers.
Be Firm but Flexible
Setting this expectation for your kids doesn’t mean you have to be uncompromising about it. You’ll need to find that sweet spot between being firm and flexible.
There will be times it may make sense for you to extend the deadline. But there should be a reasonable basis for doing so. Otherwise, your child might start taking advantage of what they perceive as your weakness.
Let’s say your 16-year-old wants to go with friends to a local pizza place after the high school football game. The JV team plays before the varsity squad, so the game won’t be over until about 10 p.m. That normal Friday 11 p.m. curfew doesn’t leave much time to hang out and down a couple of slices.
Help your teen learn a lesson in responsible decision making by talking about extending the curfew. If the game is over at 10, when will they get to the pizza place? How long will it take to order, eat, visit, and get back home?
Once you look at it logically, like a math equation, you might both arrive at the same answer. No tantrums — or squawks — necessary. Just shake hands on the deal and everyone’s happy.
Of course, there need to be consequences when your kids violate curfew. Without any repercussions, they’re going to arrive home late routinely. But when the occasion calls for a little flexibility, it’s worth the stretch.
To avoid making curfews feel like house arrest, you need to help your kids understand why they’re necessary. Then invite them to be part of the process of determining what they should be. Your children will find plenty of things to squawk about on their journey to adulthood. With a few smart strategies, curfews don’t have to be one of them.