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Monday, December 3, 2012

Why our teenagers don't have a curfew

Our teenagers are 19, 16, and 14 years old.  They've never had a curfew.   To be honest, it’s not something that we purposefully set about doing.  Or rather not doing.
Hey honey, I've got a great idea!  Let's just not give our kids a curfew... ever!
Honestly, we kinda just kept putting it off with that first teenager, thinking, we’ll make that decision when we really had to.  And then we just never did institute a curfew system.
In hind sight, I think it’s one of the better parenting decisions that we've ever not made.  This not having a curfew thing.

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with parents giving their teens a curfew.  Having a curfew is a system that has worked well for many o' families and one we still might use some day.

First I’ll tell you about what it was like when Papa and I were teens.  Because we weathered that season together.  I had a curfew.  I distinctly remember the movie getting out, or the party getting boring, and looking at my hot date, Hunky McHunkerson, and saying, So now what?  I don’t have to be home till 11 o'clock!
Sometimes we’d then go have a piece of pie at Village Inn.  Or a scoop of ice cream.  Or maybe we’d take a little walk around the town square.  Or perhaps we’d take a little walk in the woods under the moon.  Hmmmmmm.  Or if we had an hour to kill we’d go out to the airport and watch the planes land.  You getting the picture?  You know what I mean?
Maybe, I'm exaggerating a teeny bit here.  (Work with me folks... the kiddos might be reading this.)
But even without an extra hour to kill, I distinctly remember sitting in the driveway to my house killing the last 5 minutes till my curfew.  Because when you’re 17 you don’t even want to waste 5 minutes!

So here’s how we do it now sans curfew.
Liv asks, Can I go to the movies with Bianca tonight?  Out to dinner with Austin?  Over to Sally’s house with a bunch of girls?  To the bowling alley with friends?
We reply with the usual round of questions.  Who’s going to be there?  How are you getting there and home?  What are you going to do? Are there any plans for afterwards?  Where at? Are any adults going to be there?  Can I get the parents phone number just to offer to drop off sodas, pizza…?  Insert teenage eye rolling and surely-you-won't-call-their-parents exasperation here.  Oh yes we will!
And then we add, When will you be home? 
In the beginning or the going-out or “dating” process, there is a little part where we figure it out together.
So the movie ends at 9:30?  Are you going to go get coffee or ice cream afterwards?  Okay, how long do you think that will take?  And then you need to have time to drive home.  
And they come up with on their own, 10:30? 
After they get the hang of this system they start answering with, Well the movie gets out at 9:30, and we were going to go have a coffee, so I’ll be home at 10:30, okay?   
But sometimes there is a little negotiation.   It’s homecoming mom!  Can I be home at 1am?
Well that seems quite late.  What are you going to do?  
I don’t know. 
Well when you come up with a plan, let me know.  And we’ll figure out what time you should be home. 
Maybe even with a plan, she says she wants to be out till 1am.  I tell her I was thinking that was kind of late.  How ‘bout  11?  And perhaps we compromise at midnight.  Most of it depends on the plan.  If there will/won’t be adults.  If I know the adults.  Is there is a plan at all.  Who’s going. 

On their way out the door, we go over all the details again, and I always add, If anything changes, or you want to stay out later, just be sure to let me know.  And every once in a while they do call in the middle of something and ask to stay out later.  At which time the dialogue starts over, and we come over with a new to-be home time.  

I want them to be part of the process.  For the most part, it’s a plan that they came up with, and one that we as parents agreed to.  So it’s one that they are more likely to follow through with and try not work the system.
Unlike Hunky McHunkerson and me circa the stone age.


  1. Come to think of it, I'm not sure we had a curfew with our older 3 when they were in that phase of their life. We did request that they come in at a reasonable time when they were living with us during short bursts of time during their college years, but that's the closest we came to curfews. I love your description. It makes a lot of sense. And the portraits of your teens are terrific!

  2. Haha, great 'article' Nancy!! You are so good at writing. :) Don't worry, I am sure most parents figured it out and knew what you ment. :P Ahh, the good old days, sitting in the car, not wanting to waste those five minutes. Memories, memories. :)

    I think your idea is great. The teens have some control over things and that is good for them. I will remember this and try to put it in practice when the time comes.

  3. I didn't have a curfew either.. our system ran a lot like what you do.. the basic, where are you going, who will be there, when will you be back.. and as long as it worked for myself and my parents, things were good. :)

  4. I always want to high-five you on your parenting style, but especially on this one! I've been dating my now-husband since we were 15 years old. He had strict parents with strict curfews: he could only go out three nights a week and had to be home by 11 on all accounts. Well, he played high school football, so practice or a game was one night. He played bass guitar in a local garage band, so practice or a "gig" at a park was another night -- sometimes two. That left one night to hang out with me or sometimes none, depending on the football or band schedule. For a 15 year old boy madly in l-o-v-e, that schedule spells trouble. It wasn't long before he quit the football team (which to this day he swears he never wanted to play on anyway, it was the curse of being a 6'4" teenager with football-loving parents!). When he got a job part-time after school at an ice-cream shop and worked two nights a week, those counted towards his nights out which meant, you guessed it, he soon quit his band, too. It always frustrated me even then, because I had the same rules with my own parents. I wasn't out running wild all week long by any means, but I'd say "am I able to see a movie with so-and-so this evening? It starts at 7" and they'd drop me off, and I'd be home after or, like you said, make time to prepare for coffee or ice-cream. I always felt like my parents trusted and respected me while still being my parents and guiding me, rather than controlling me without listening to any special circumstances. Unlike my husband, I never had to miss out on a lot of fun times growing up like he did because he used up all of his "nights out."

    For instance, our prom. We went with a group of friends and told my parents that since we hate dancing, we'd probably be home early. I said I'd keep them posted and called them after an hour to say we were bored at prom and considering seeing a movie instead. They said that was fine and then I called them when the movie was out and said I was going home, but asked if a friend could spend the night. A lot of the other kids simply had curfews and so just spent the time being out...doing who knows what...because they could.

    1. FWIW-My parents were very liberal with my curfew and very trusting. And accordingly, I don't remember ever "breaking" curfew. but I really like this system that gives my big kiddos practice to think through the process before the fact, and make decisions accordingly. A life skill I think we can all work on.
      I do like the idea of parents wanting the big kiddos to spend time at home, maybe even requiring it a teeny bit here and there. But flexibility is key.

  5. I like this idea, though it scares me to death that my kids will soon be old enough to be out there in public without me... yikes.

  6. This is how I have always thought curfews should work, but I love the "what's their parent's phone number so I can offer to bring pop or pizza?" I'm sticking that one in my back pocket.
    My parent's theory was that we didn't need curfews because our friends had them. 8 kids, for the most part it worked, but life was a lot different then!

  7. I never had a curfew growing up. My mom's rules were similar to yours, though probably a bit more lax. Her only steadfast rule was that she needed to know where I was in case something were to happen. Based on her rule, I never really took advantage, per se. But I did push some limits (as most teens do). I remember spending the night at a guy's house more than once (in my defense, he was only a friend & nothing untoward ever happened)- but I did tell her where I was! Looking back on that from a parent's viewpoint (as I am one now).... that would never fly in my house. I'm glad my mom trusted me, but I'm not sure I deserved quite that much trust!! :) So, I'll most likely have something similar to the "no curfew" but with a few more rules attached for my kids!

    1. That sounds quite similar to how I grew up, except I did have a curfew, but it was quite liberal. I too hope to deter some of the things that I did. Isn't that the universal truth for all parents?

  8. I love not only the idea, and reasoning behind it but that you included the questions and thought process. Our oldest just turned 14 soil thinking weareclose

  9. I grew up with a very similar system-- though not because my parents planned it. My sister had a curfew. My sister regularly broke curfew, my parents rarely knew where she was... As the younger sibling, I watched and learned. I always told my parents where I was going, who I was going with, and what the plan was. They never set a curfew with me because I was careful to tell them when I'd be back-- I'd seen them up late worrying about my sister. Of course it helped that I was a complete and utter nerd and not likely to get into any trouble, but I often wonder if they had approached the situation differently with my sister-- if they had asked more questions and treated her with a little more respect-- would they have had an easier time? She was so irritated that I didn't have a curfew and she did-- particularly when she was in college and I was in high school. But it was hard to argue "I'm going to a party at my boyfriend's house, his parents are out of town and the drinking age across the state line is still 18" was very different from "my best friend and I are going for ice cream and then we're going to the library to drop off books because if you return them in the middle of the night you don't have to pay the overdue fines" (ah, the days before computerization.... yes, I'm old). It's all to easy to forget that the goal is to teach them to make good choices for themselves, not to get them to adhere to your rules because you're the parent. (Not that I'm knocking respect for the rules and the parents who set them!)

  10. We had something similar - but with a starting point of 11 weeknights and 12 weekends. A phone call guaranteed an extension too! After they were in college that 'went out the window' - but the standing rule was you had to let dad (the cop) know you were home so "if he heard something in the house he didn't come out with guns blazin'"! That worked pretty good too!

    I had one other "standing rule" - extended to all my kids and their "friends" - where ever you are - what ever the hour - if you needed a "rescue pickup" you could call me and I'd be there "no questions asked" until the next morning - then full disclosure after you had a chance to "get your head around it". The "exception" being - if a friend they had to call a parent to tell them they were safe and where they were and that I'd "deliver" them the next morning. And a couple times they took me up on that when a party "turned south" on them - it's all good.

    A lot of times it's "easier" for kids to talk to a friends Mom or Dad than it is their own!

    hugs - really love this style -

    aus and co.

  11. We've never had a curfew for our kids either. We talk about their plans, make sure they (and we)know how they are getting home, and make sure they have a cell phone. Then we trust - our kids, the Lord, and the foundation we've given them. They make mistakes, but overall, they are amazing kids and we have never needed to crack down or set a curfew - so far.

  12. I remember flying home at 3 minutes before 11 trying to make that curfew. Driving WAY too fast. If my parents knew that I think they wouldn't have be quite as "you need to be home at 11pm ON THE DOT" as they were. I vowed that I wouldn't make that mistake with my kids... I LOVE this approach. Thanks for sharing. Although I'm happy that I still have a few years before I have to think about this.

  13. This is exactly how my parents did it! :) I think it works great.


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