Teen: “Hey mom. I’m spending the night here at Sarah’s.”
Mother: “No you’re not. I told you to be home by 11:00 PM.”
Teen: “But her mom said it was O.K. if I stay here tonight.”
Mother: “I don’t care. I let you go over there because you promised to be home by 11:00. Now, you either come home or you’re grounded for the rest of the week!”
Teen: “Then I’m never coming home!!!” (CLICK)
Sound familiar? For moms and dads with adolescents, setting curfews can be tricky. Adolescents should have curfews because they need discipline and supervision. They're at a point in life where they are experimenting and pushing boundaries. When adolescents rebel against their curfews, moms and dads shouldn't give in. Parents are so easily manipulated by teens when it comes to curfews. It's not just about your teen hanging out with the wrong people or you staying up late worrying where he or she is at. A curfew is about an adolescent understanding that, yes, he or she can go out and have fun, but there has to be “responsibility” alongside this privilege.
What To Do When Your Adolescent Refuses To Come Home:
1. Allow your teenagers to come home after breaking curfew without fear. Discipline is better meted out the day after. Otherwise, they might commit greater infractions out of defiance.
2. Be careful how hard and fast you make that curfew. Allow for a small buffer (perhaps 15 minutes) so that your teen does not drive faster in order to be home by curfew and avoid punishment.
3. Be fair with the amount of discipline you issue for breaking curfew. Avoid becoming radical in your disciplinary actions, as this will only confuse your teenagers and possibly cause resentment.
4. Check local ordinances on curfews. Many cities and counties have mandatory curfews in place for minors of different age groups. Use the laws in your city to help back up your decisions. If it is against the law for your teen to be out after a certain time, let him or her know.
5. Communicate clearly what the agreed upon times are through written and verbal reinforcements. Post it on the refrigerator and reinforce with a verbal reminder (e.g., "I look forward to seeing you around 10:30 tonight").
6. Discuss the consequences for breaking curfew with your spouse. It is important that any actions you take in this regard are decided together when you both have a cool head.
7. Don't wait until your youngsters are adolescents to establish a curfew. Establish the curfew when your youngsters are preteens so that, by the time they reach their teenage years, obeying a curfew has become a long established habit.
8. Execute the consequences of broken rules. When your teen is late, give her the freedom and opportunity to comment and explain. Maybe there were unplanned events (e.g., a flat tire). Try to find a solution to the problem together. If your adolescent still breaks the curfew rule, let the agreed-upon consequences fall into place. Since you and your adolescent 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 discipline on the spot.
9. Have your teen call as she is leaving her friend's house or an event. The call will give you a heads-up regarding where your teen is and how long it should take for her to arrive home.
10. 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.
11. If your teen knows in advance what the consequence for breaking curfew will be, and still breaks curfew, it may be time to re-evaluate the consequence.
12. Instruct your teen to call from her cell phone or her friend's home phone as soon as she arrives at her destination. Double check the number against the number on your list or from the Caller ID.
13. Involve your adolescents in setting their 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 "winner."
14. It never hurts to check on your adolescent from time to time. If your adolescent says she is going to be at the coffee shop at 5 p.m. with their friends, drop by and see for yourself. You do not have to even let your adolescent know. If she 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 teen at an unusual time.
15. Keep a list of phone numbers for all of your teen's friends. If your teen says he is going to Michael's house, make sure that is exactly where he is going. A networking system with Michael's mom or dad is essential. Call Michael's parents and confirm your son's visit. Find out who will be driving and what the teenagers will be doing. This one phone call can be the first step in preventing a dangerous situation from occurring. If the other parents are not aware of your teen's visit, chances are your adolescent is already planning to do something he shouldn't be doing.
16. Make it abundantly clear that any time your teen becomes frightened while away from home, she can always call you for help.
17. Point out to your teenagers that a curfew expresses your trust in them, not your control over them. If they are breaking curfew, they are only failing to practice freedom prudently.
18. Remember that a broken curfew is not the end of the world, nor does it mean your teenagers fundamentally don't respect you. It is only natural that your teenagers will try to test boundaries to see what consequences they can handle.
19. Remind your teenagers of their curfew before they go out at night. Don’t give them the chance to say they were unclear about the specifics of curfew or the consequences for breaking it.
20. There are times when rules must be broken. Reasons should be emergencies only. Unfortunately teenagers and moms and dads often differ in what they consider emergencies. Lay the rules down long before your teen leaves your home. Curfew can be broken without consequences in rare instances that may arise (e.g., car trouble, a visit to ER, helping a friend, etc.). In the case of an emergency, your teen should be instructed to immediately touch base with you by phone.
21. When your teen obeys his curfew and comes home on time, let him know how happy you are that he's safe and how proud you are to have such a thoughtful and trustworthy teen. Let your teenagers know how worried you get when they don't come home on time, and thank them for saving you the stress of waiting up.