A Christian Counselor

Questions & Answers

by Jimmy Evans
What is a proper curfew for teens and when should having a curfew for them stop?

Since your question is directed toward teens, let me begin with the issue of a teenager in middle school. I believe that middle-school-age young people should have close supervision from parents. Obviously, they need enough freedom to be with friends, have fun and so on. However, if they are allowed to be alone late at night or for long periods of time without parental supervision, trouble is going to occur.

We made sure we knew where our children were and whom they were with at all times. We also required them to call and check in with us regularly. On weeknights, we required them to prioritize homework before anything else. Our curfew during the middle-school years for weeknights was ten o'clock. On weekends, it was no later than midnight, but it normally depended on whom they were with and what they were doing.

Be cautious when your kids tell you that you are too strict and that no one else has as early a curfew as they do. The first thing to do is to call the other parents and see what they say. It is critical that parents communicate with each other when their children are together regularly. It prevents many problems and creates an informed, united front of parents. Without this, kids many times will use the ignorance of the parents as a means of deception.

Another important thing is to use common sense and to go with your instincts. Regardless of what other parents allow, sometimes you have to make your own call on a matter because you know your child better than anyone else. Even though legalism and harshness damages a child, every child will be benefited from clear, fair parameters set by his or her parents.

In the high school years, we kept basically the same curfews for our kids, but we allowed more exceptions for going past their curfews and gave them more freedom. One obvious freedom for teenagers is driving a car. That in itself gives them a greater ability to go where they want and to spread their wings. I believe high school is an important time for parents to let their kids have more freedom in a supervised and accountable environment.

Once young people reach college age, they should have been given increased freedom in an atmosphere of loving supervision. Never should middle-school- or high-school-age children be given the freedom to do as they please, when they please. They need structure; but the older they get, the structure has to allow for more freedom and personal decision making. When they get into college, they are on their own and don't have a curfew. The only exception to this might be when college students continue living at home. Because they are still under the parents' roof, parents have the right to require them to do certain things such as cleaning up after themselves, etc. However, putting curfews on college students is difficult and will be short-lived.

Both of our kids lived with us while they were in their college years. We set no curfew for them, but required them to be responsible residents of our home. It worked well, and our kids respected us and the freedom we gave them.

from Marriage & Family
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