When I was a teenager, my parents never enforced a curfew. Looking back, I can’t say that was a good thing.
I basically had no limits. On the weekends, my friend and I often went out dancing into the wee hours of the morning. We usually ended our night with breakfast. Thankfully, we weren’t troublemakers, and never found ourselves partaking in questionable activities. We even managed to maintain good grades throughout high school, which has led to lucrative careers in our adult lives.
When I became a parent, though, I quickly realized my friend and I were the exception, rather than the rule. Although teenagers crave and even need independence, limits are important, too. Without them, the likelihood of getting into trouble goes up exponentially.
So, I knew when my children, Abbey and Jaiden, became old enough to start going out at night, I would need to figure out what would work best for our situation.
But deciding on a curfew for my teens is more than just knowing the curfew within my city. Sure, that’s a start, but there are a lot of other factors to consider. Every child is different, which means one size won’t necessarily fit all. My children have different personalities, and that means the conditions with which I make that decision would have to be based on a lot more than my personal experience.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you decide on the right curfew for your children.
1. What is the teen curfew for your area? I didn’t realize the time frame for minors driving at night varies between states. And I’m glad I checked. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, teens younger than 18 can drive without parent supervision between 5 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. But in Nebraska, the hours are shorter — 6 a.m. to midnight — unless the driver is traveling between home and either work or a school activity. For more specific information, refer to your state’s Department of Transportation.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a later curfew? There is a lot of truth to the old saying, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” As an experienced adult over the age of 21, I have seen both the pros and cons of staying out later than the general population. On the other hand, I don’t believe it's good to keep them home after 9 p.m. on the weekend. They need to be given the freedom to grow and learn how to act appropriately.
3. How trustworthy and responsible is your child? My children are as different as night and day, so it’s important to focus on how well they keep their priorities. If their schoolwork is typically done on time and they complete their chores with little to no argument, that goes a long way to show me how trustworthy they will be. A child you can trust to be responsible at home will be easier to trust when he or she is out with friends.
4. How much sleep does your child typically need to function? When determining a week night curfew, I thought a lot about how my children behave in the morning before school. Do they wake up on time? Are they out the door when they need to be? How cranky are they in the morning? All of these are important questions to consider, as not all children can handle having less sleep.
5. What does your child think? I respect my children and their opinions, and I believe a vital part of determining an appropriate curfew is taking their suggestions into consideration. They aren’t toddlers, and showing them I trust them to help me make this decision helps them realize I’ve accepted they're growing up and can handle more responsibility.
Amanda Smith is a working mom of two children. Read more from Amanda »