Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Curfews: Is there a better way?

Most of the teens under 18 who I know (not including unschoolers), have a "curfew", a time by which they *must* be home or face groundings, loss of computer time, or similar punishments.  It's something I've spent a bit of time thinking about. 

During the school year, though I don't really agree, I do understand why parents impose a curfew.  Kids do need to be up early the next morning to go to school.  Now, this often doesn't affect how late teens go to bed anyway, since they just stay up late at home, but I do see *why* the parents want them in earlier.  But in Summer?  Now that, I understand less.  The only reason, when getting up early for school isn't an issue, that I can possibly see making sense for imposing a curfew in the Summer, is worries about the safety of their kid.  But there are such better ways of handling it than a curfew, and groundings in some of a teens only free time in the entire year, when they miss that curfew!  Here's how my family handles things:

We like to know where a family member is when they aren't here.  We like to know how late someone will be back.  When Emi heads out, for instance (I'll use my sister as an example, since she's the one who's out late most often!), one of us will ask "when do you plan on being home?".  She'll give an answer, and our policy is that whatever time is given, you should be home by, or call by, that time.  That is the easiest possible way.  Whoever is at home doesn't worry, and whoever is out isn't resentful because they "have" to be home by an externally imposed time.  And in case you were wondering, we're all pretty good about calling to let HQ know where we are and how we're doing.  I also ask my mother and father that question when they go out at night, and I expect to get a call if they're going to be late!  This isn't just something for the younger people in our house.

If a ride is needed, obviously the driver has a big say in how late the person can be out!  Mum is a night owl, and she really doesn't mind doing late night driving most of the time (I think the latest Emi and I have called to be picked up at was two in the morning...  Maybe a bit later.  She'd known and OK'd the fact we'd be home very late, and cheerfully arrived to bring us home!), but when she does decide she's too tired, or really doesn't feel like it, neither Emi or I are upset or put out.  It's also a bonus that at this point, an increasingly large number of friends can drive, and some even have regular access to a car! ;-)

So much anger and resentment, so much fighting in so many families, over something that really shouldn't be a big issue at all.  Every time I hear of a kid getting grounded for days for missing their curfew by 15 minutes, I just shake my head.  There's enough things to expend your anger and energy on in this world.  Pick the things that are actually important!



  1. When I was growing up, I had to live by the clock. My father was time obsessed. He still is. If I was even a minute late by his watch/clock, I had to play 20 questions...added to the fact that I had to play 20 questions in order to actually leave the house. If I was 5 minutes late, it was automatic grounded from EVERYTHING for a *WEEK*. It's no wonder I kind of went ape-shit when I moved out at 17yrs old :)

  2. @Michele: Definitely doesn't sound like a fun way to grow up! :-(

    My experience has been that the more controlled teens are, the more likely they are to do exactly the things their parents are worried about them doing! Me and Emi have talked about the fact that neither of us have ever "rebelled", and we really don't know what we would rebel against, anyway! And both of us are far more level-headed and aware of our limits than many, many other much more tightly controlled kids our age because of that freedom. Control just creates resentment and dishonesty, it doesn't actually stop people from doing anything! I wish more of the parents I know could realize that.

  3. It works pretty much the same at our house too. The thing that really gets in my crawl are the city imposed curfews for teens. 10pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends. Argh!

  4. I choose to go to work tired with some regularity. I think schooled teens should have the same option.

    We, too, have those going out set a time and then call to adjust it as needed. As my daughters are going out the door, I say, "What time should I start worrying?" :-)

    They almost never call for more time. Interesting that total freedom has led them to a perfectly reasonable approach to being out and about, don't you think?

  5. I dated someone once who was grounded for a month for missing curfew... at the age of eighteen. I thought that was ridiculous.

  6. My moms rule was "be home before dark" unless I was going to something specific up until my 18th birthday. I spent all my time in trouble because I had no idea what counted as "before dark".
    My dad doesn't really care, he just wants a call or text when we arrive at a place, and when we leave, and if he is out of town, once when we are home.

  7. Great insight and oh, how I WISH my parents had been as insightful as yours. I rebelled to the max against all the distrust and control. Thanks for sharing your more trusting and peaceful way. I'll link to this post - hope it's okay to quote parts of this?

  8. @Lissa: That's horrible!! There's no city imposed curfews anywhere near me, thank goodness. I love wandering around late at night with friends, and have for years!

    @Ronnie: I definitely agree that schooled teens should have that right. I was just saying that at least I got the rational behind it, even if I totally disagreed!

    lol at "what time should I start worrying". :-P Sounds like something my mother would say!

    @Bethany: Oh dear... Talk about ridiculous! :-S

    @Abeje: That sucks! Before dark is such a non-specific curfew... Yeah, calling to me is the reasonable thing.

    @Bethany: Thank you for the comment and linking on your blog! :-D I'm really glad you liked the post.

  9. Another issue with curfews is lack of safety. I have a friend whose curfew is midnight. We were both leaving a friend's house, and I asked for a ride so my dad wouldn't have to come get me (I drive, but the family was short on cars that day, so I'd been dropped off). Due to chatting at the door, we left a bit later than we needed to in order for her to take me home and get back to her house. So in order to make her curfew, she drove far more recklessly than she usually does. I assume she made her curfew, but worrying about a few minutes like that can make teens do unsafe things.