A 7 p.m. curfew on school nights isn't unreasonable. On the weekends, a tween's curfew could be pushed to 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. or later, depending on the circumstances and what you're comfortable with. Deciding on a curfew time isn't really the hard part, it's enforcing the curfew and communicating your rules that's the real challenge. The tips below can help you out when it comes time to discuss tweens and curfews.
Know the Law Concerning Curfews
Some local county and city governments have established curfews for tweens and teens. Even if your locality already has a curfew for minors, it may be later than the curfew you had in mind for your child. Don't feel guilty if you require your child to be home before his friends or any local ordinance limitations.
Be Prepared for Complaints
No matter what time you establish as your tween's curfew, chances are he'll complain and insist that his friends can stay out much longer. Be prepared, for it's highly likely that your tween will want to negotiate his curfew. Be firm, and make it clear that some family rules are just not up for negotiation.
It's important your tween understand why his curfew may be different from everybody else's. Explain how you arrived at your decision so he understands that you didn't arbitrarily pick a time. Also, be clear about other rules regarding your child's safety, such as whether or not an adult should always be home when he's visiting a friend or going to the mall. Explain why you insist on adult supervision, and that your goal is to keep him safe and to prevent him from stumbling into situations he's not yet ready to handle. Make other rules crystal clear as well. Is your child allowed to ride his bike home in the dark? If he's going to be late, should he phone home to let you know?
Allow Occasional Exceptions
It's OK to extend your tween's curfew for special events and circumstances, such as a school play, a family event, or an extra-curricular commitment. Just make sure that extensions are the exceptions to the rule, rather than the norm. Consistency is the key to making curfews work.
Consider Your Child's Needs
Consider your child's sleep needs before deciding on a curfew time. Remember that most tweens need at least nine hours of sleep a night, and that includes weekends, too. Also, keep in mind that tweens need about a half hour to transition themselves from a busy day to rest time. One of the reasons parents establish curfews is to make sure children have time for all the other important events of the day.
Curfews and Consequences
If your tween doesn't keep to his curfew, he needs to understand the consequences of his actions. Explain what consequences your tween will face if he forgets his curfew, or ignores it all together. For example, if your son arrives home 20 minutes after his curfew, you may require that he come home 20 minutes early the next time he goes out.
Don't be afraid to discipline your tween for forgetting or ignoring his curfew. Curfews don't work unless they're enforced, and the whole idea behind setting a curfew is for your child to learn how to follow the rules, behave responsibly and safely, and show you that he's worthy of your trust.