How to Avoid "Curfew Conflict" with Your Teenager

It is hard enough that your teenage son or daughter wants to go out all the time, hang out with friends until all hours of the night, and worry you to death. And now you have to consider an appropriate curfew. Setting a curfew for an adolescent is one of those things that must be done carefully and enforced completely from the beginning. Being allowed to socialize with peers is most definitely a privilege, and chances are if moms and dads aren’t remaining aware and informed at all times, their teenager will get into some sort of trouble.

Tips for Avoiding Curfew Conflict—

1. Communicate clearly what the agreed upon times are, through written and verbal reinforcements. This means, post it on the refrigerator and reinforce with a verbal reminder (e.g., "I look forward to seeing you around 10:30 tonight"). Also, be careful how hard and fast you make that curfew. Allow for a small buffer (maybe 10 minutes) so that your teenager does not drive faster in order to be home by curfew and avoid receiving a consequence.

2. Consider “flex-time.” Vary the curfew depending on the activity, the season, or night of the week. Your adolescent may stop arguing if you agree to a later curfew when he goes to the movies or a party. You also might impose a stricter curfew during the school year and more lenient rules in summer.

3. Despite the sometimes relentless pressure you'll feel from your teenager, it's important to start conservatively and work up from there. For example, a 15-year-old who consistently abides by a 10:30 p.m. curfew should be rewarded at age 16 with at least a 30-minute extension. About every six months thereafter, sit down with your adolescent and review the record. If it's good, tack on another 15 to 30 minutes. What do you say to the adolescent that continually misses curfew? Except in extreme cases, a combination of discipline today and reward tomorrow works well. For example, you might say something like, "Over the past 3 months, we've talked to you numerous times about coming in late. We had planned to extend your curfew until 10:00 by this time, but because you haven't cooperated with 9:30, we're going to keep it there for another month. If you can stick to the curfew, then we'll talk about extending it." On special occasions (e.g., prom night), curfew can be more flexible. Also, you should always know where your adolescent is going and with whom.

4. Draw up a contract. An adolescent with a strong sense of independence may find this business-like approach to the problem appealing. Make sure the adolescent has a voice when the terms and conditions are drawn. Otherwise, a contract may appear manipulative and controlling.

5. Ease up for good behavior, and crack down for tardiness. Many adolescents break their curfews by a few minutes, and this creates tension and leads to arguments. While moms and dads usually tighten the leash when an adolescent is late, they forget to loosen their grip for punctuality. Consider increasing privileges to reward your adolescent, just as you would take them away to punish.

6. End the curfew battles by ending the curfew. Sometimes a curfew causes adolescents to feel like they are prisoners in their own homes. For some teens, it may be best to set boundaries nightly.

7. Execute the consequences of broken rules. When he is late, give him the freedom and opportunity to comment and explain. Maybe there were unplanned events (e.g., a flat tire, a surprise party, etc.). Try to find a solution to the problem together. If an adolescent still breaks the curfew rule, let the agreed-upon consequences fall into place. Since you and your son or daughter have already discussed these consequences and set them up together (e.g., take away car keys, remove home privileges, etc.), you are not forced into the position of playing the "bad guy" or creating a consequence on the spot.

8. If your adolescent has missed curfew because drinking or drugs were involved, then the consequences are more serious. Simply enact these more serious consequences that you and your adolescent set up together.

9. Involve your adolescent in setting her nighttime boundaries. Reach an agreement together as to a curfew time that is age-appropriate. Compromise if necessary. You don't always have to be the "boss."

10. Keep the lines of communication open. Moms and dads and adolescents who talk frequently are much less likely to experience fights over curfew guidelines. Don't let anger keep the two of your from discussing the subject.

11. Sometimes it is okay to say yes. But, it never hurts to check on your adolescent from time to time. If your adolescent says he is going to be at the Mall at 6 p.m. with his friends, drop by and see for yourself. You don’t have to let your adolescent know. If he sees you, just wave and keep on walking. Teens need to know that there will be some unscheduled checking by you. If they are spending the night at a friend’s house, call and ask to speak to your teenager at an unusual time. Parenting is active, and that means you have to make that effort to check on your adolescent. This takes courage, but it is the price of making sure he or she is safe. This doesn’t mean you should follow your adolescents around or attach a tracking device to their clothing. But as a parent, you should listen to your intuition. If something sounds sketchy, then it’s at least worth taking a closer look. If you are open and honest with your adolescent about the house rules, there will a lot less “sneaky-behavior” going on behind your back.

12. Utilize your adolescent's friends. Most curfew battles begin when an adolescent feels that her friends are staying out later. Talking to other moms and dads to synchronize a "community" curfew makes everyone happy. Your adolescent will have an easier time heading home if everyone else must keep a similar curfew.

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

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