It is hard enough that your teenager wants to go out all the time, hang out with friends until all hours of the night and worry you to death; and then you have to consider an appropriate curfew. Setting a curfew for a teenager is one of those things that must be done carefully and enforced completely from the beginning. Being allowed to meander out with friends is most definitely a privilege and chances are if parents aren’t remaining aware and informed at all times their teen will get into some sort of trouble.
It is probably wise to set early curfews in the beginning. Having them come home around 10pm ensures that they are given freedom but are also expected to be home at a reasonable hour. This not only allows you to get rest, but also allows them to display their trustworthiness. As time progresses and your teen has adhered to curfews you can begin to push it back by 30 minute increments. When you get to around midnight – it may be time to stop. No matter how old your child is there really is no reason to stay out past midnight. Most states have laws restricting teens to drive after a certain time unless they are coming to and from work and most states do not allow teens to drive around with a car load of friends. If your child questions your curfew judgment; blame it on the law. By time they rally to try and change it they will at least be in their 20’s!
Lots of parents feel pressured and cave to the whining teen who claims that all their friends get to stay out later than them. Chances are the kids that can stay out are completely unsupervised and those that are staying out later are not following their curfew. Don’t be afraid to ask other moms and always keep in the forefront of your mind that the longer your teen is allowed to stay out the more trouble they can get into. Teenagers are well equipped to know exactly how many beers they can have at a party and still make it home by curfew without their parents noticing they have been dabbling with alcohol. Shorter curfews also ensures that your child can not travel too far away from your home town or neighborhood where they might be hanging out with groups of kids you don’t know very well.
As you begin setting a curfew for teens it is imperative that you enforce it. It is absolutely necessary that some consequence be suffered for missing curfew and even more important that teens know the curfew is not negotiable. Make adjustments for things like homecoming or proms; but nothing else. If your child is consistently late it is suggested to ground them completely or make their curfew so early that it isn’t worth them leaving the house (although they still will).
What so many parents don’t realize is that the life of a teen gets more dangerous and tempting as time goes on. The kids that are allowed to stay out late are usually not the best influence, possibly have parents who are out of town and may be much older than your child. Most teens rarely mention the senior or kid who graduated last year that hangs out with them to their parents. Although spying is not a nice thing to do; it is a parent job to check up on their child to make sure they are telling the truth and so that you know for certain they are responsible. Think back to when you were a teen and don’t discount the fact that your teen will try the same tricks.
Another way to enforce curfew and drive home the importance of it to your teen is to ‘show up’ where they are if they are late coming home. Most teens would rather just about anything than their parents waltzing into a party, pulling them by the ear and taking them home. Do it once and chances are your child will have incentive to meet curfew.
If your child is going to be late due to an extenuating circumstance make sure they call. When they do; yelling, screaming or threatening them is not wise. Your teen needs to know that they can count on you and trust you to not overreact when they are trying to do the right thing. One night their friend who picked them up may get drunk and offer to drive them home. If a parent handles things right your child will feel safe calling you for a ride instead. If something comes up that seems a reasonable excuse make an allowance once; but dint fall victim to constant issues. Remember the old phrase “Fool me once – shame on you but fool me twice; shame on me.”
Setting a curfew for teens is very important. The US Highway Safety Administration concludes that more teens are killed in car accidents after midnight than at any other time. Additionally, after around midnight few establishments that cater to kids are open and children should have had more than ample time to socialize. Require that your child call you when they change plans or move locations and if you don’t approve with what they are doing insist they come home. When teens begin to shift their plans and make excuses your parental radar should be high; they are more than likely up to something. Even good kids, straight A students and athletes who have never given their parents a problem are privy to peer pressure and ‘normal’ teenage antics. As a parent the first and foremost responsibility is to keep them safe and alive…the only way parents can do this is to remain vigilant in their rules, curfews and expectations and back them up with expectation and enforcement!