As your child becomes a teenager, she begins to gain a sense of independence. And along with that can come a certain amount of stubbornness. This can be a difficult mix when it comes to the crucial issue of what time your son or daughter comes home at night. Follow these proven tips for dealing with this important parenting challenge.
Start by entering into the process with an attitude of flexibility. No, I’m not saying you should let anything and everything go with your teenager. They’re simply not ready for all of the responsibilities that come with complete freedom over their actions. But likewise, there’s a good chance they’re smarter, more mature, and more capable of making decisions than you realize. Give them some credit and some trust.
Couple this with a sprit of constant, open communication. When you assume things about your teen’s behavior, you open the door for underestimating or overestimating her ability to make sound choices. By talking about things, you get a clearer picture of her motivations, intentions, and actions.
Next enlist your teen’s friends and their parents. The issue of staying out late has an intense peer pressure element to it. No teenager wants to feel like she’s being corralled back home before anyone else is – it’s just not “cool.” And that is the ultimate slap in the face. By coming to an agreement with friends and other parents, you can arrive at a curfew that doesn’t leave anyone in the dork seat.
At the same time, consider the activities that your teen is engaging in at night. If it’s a movie, dance, or other safe, carefully coordinated activity, then perhaps it might be okay for them to stay out later. But if it’s a party, date, or similarly freeform situations, perhaps an earlier curfew could be agreed on.
And that notion of “agreed on” is vital. Even though you need to be the clear, ultimate authority on what the final curfew will be, your teenager will have a strong need to feel as though she has some say in the matter. Discuss the matter, take her input into consideration and make decisions with the best effort possible at compromise and cooperation. A little bit goes a long way toward building trust in this regard.
Finally, once you’ve agreed on a reasonable, appropriate curfew, you’ve got to keep it enforced. Decide in your own mind at the very beginning how much “play” you’ll allow. By enforcing it down to the minute, you’re only going to eventually anger your teen. But how much should you allow? Practical considerations dictate ten or fifteen minutes as a reasonable amount. But don’t let it creep out later. Ten minutes late soon can become a half hour, then an hour, etc.
Once you’ve decided that, back it up with rewards for good behavior – simple praise is often enough – and punishment for bad behavior. Hold your ground on the latter. Your teen needs structure in her life. She’ll thank you for it later.