As our kids get older we face new challenges along with special moments as they grow, change and become more independent. For instance, what kind of curfew should you set for your older child, and how do you enforce the curfew? We give you some helpful tips on the process of choosing and following through on a curfew.
Choosing the Curfew
Choosing the time that your child should be home at night can be tricky. You will need to come to a decision based on your own comfort level and your child’s level of maturity and responsibility. As a jumping off point, check in with other parents or school staff on what seems to be average for other kids their age. Make sure to have this conversation with your spouse and come to a mutual decision before discussing it with your child. Having a united front, and having done your homework ahead of time, means you don’t end up stuck in a “but my friends all get to...” argument.
Be clear about consequences
Before having the curfew conversation with your child, decide what the consequences will be if your child fails to come home on time. Do they have a “grace period” and if so, how long is it? What is the consequence if your child is late? Then make sure you clearly communicate these rules and expectations to your child. Also discuss how your child can make sure that she is home at the agreed time, especially if she is relying on a friend for a ride.
Holding your child accountable
It’s very easy to start sliding into a later and later curfew by just being a few minutes late one night, and then a few more the next. Keep your child accountable and follow through on the agreed upon consequences. If your child ends up being late one night, wait until the following morning to discuss the slip up. A late night fight or screaming match won’t do anyone any good. Wait until emotions have cooled off and don’t turn it into an opportunity for a long speech or let your child manipulate you into a long discussion. Keep it short and to the point. Explain what should have happened, what your child did wrong and what his consequences will be.
Changing the curfew
It’s usually better to set your child’s curfew a bit earlier to start, and let them earn a later curfew by showing that they can follow rules and meet your expectations. If your child approaches you about a later curfew, hear them out and see if the reasons are valid. If they are, agree to discuss a later curfew if they can be on time for a certain number of days. If they can handle that responsibility, agree to delay the curfew a bit and again clarify the expectations and consequences should they not be on time.
These type of situations give you a chance to show your child that there are expectations and rules to follow - at home, in school and in the real world. And it gives them a chance to show you, that they are capable of more responsibilities. They need to behave in ways that show they can be trusted, that they are accountable. Once they get that, they are one step closer to becoming a responsible part of society.