Curfew for Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • How to get teen to come home on time?

    (3 replies)

    Hello, I'm having trouble motivating my 16 year old to come home on time, whether it's from school, playground, or friends' homes.  He's lost many privileges due to this ongoing issue.  Any suggestions?

    Thank you!

    It is hard to know if this is an obedience issue or a skill set issue from what you wrote. If he just can’t keep track of time, have him set alarms on his phone. If the former, perhaps back off and give him more autonomy. After all he will be an adult in two years so should probably start practicing now. I don’t think taking privileges away is the right response. Talk to him and explain why you think it is important to you and listen to why he wants to stay out and disobey you. Are there places where you can put the decision making back in his hands? I think if you could reach a compromise where you say it is really important to you that he always be home by midnight on Friday nights but that you will let him decide what time to come home on weekdays as long as it is before 7pm (or whatever works for you) and homework gets done etc that you could show him you trust his judgment and improve your relationship and communication. If he disobeys explain how it makes you feel and why it worries you etc. frame it in terms of wanting the best for his life and happiness and tell him you know it is ultimately up to him to decide and that you know you can’t control him. I think it is pretty normal for boys that age to want to disappear away from families most of the time. 

    Have there been an actual problems as a result of his not being home? If there are no problems, you need to loosen up. Instead of telling him when to be home, ask him where he is going and when he will be back. Everyone will be much happier. 

    Oh, I saw some responses and I did not feel they get how annoying this can be. So I thought I'd chip in. It can be so frustrating, even during daytime hours when you're pretty sure they are safe: Where is she? What is she doing? Who is she with? When will she be home? Why isn't she answering texts/calls, etc.?  From her point of view it's just "calm down, i'm fine, I'm just hanging out with friends, you wouldn't harass my brother this way." Completely oblivious about time and the impact she is having on others. 

    I'm having a bit of a breakthrough by helping her see why I want to know, and how frustrating it is to have the lack of certainty. I've shown her brother doesn't get harassed because he replies to my texts, tells me when he'll be home, and updates me (sort of) accordingly.  In response to this, she knows she needs to inform us "who what where when" when she leaves and we have a check in time.  heading out in the afternoon? Great. I'm planning on you being home at 6 for dinner. if that is not going to happen, you need to call by 5:30 and discuss it with me" . Sounds so simple but we've been locked in a battle and she didn't know why. She knows it's based on: I want to know she's safe; I need to know if she's home for dinner; I need to know if she is going to need a ride, etc. That makes more sense to her. Also, we made her turn on location services and she HAS to answer calls/texts or no phone. 

    Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


15 year old going out on weekend nights

August 2008

My 15 y.o. son and I are arguing about the terms and conditions of his going out on weekend nights, particularly on what his curfew should be. He snuck out of the house after we were asleep, one night, planning to return home un- noticed, before we awoke. I would really appreciate a discussion on what others have set as curfew for their high schoolers for the each of the ages (14-17 y.o., i.e., different times for different ages), as well as, related experiences and suggestions. anonymous

The perennial teen-parent battle.

What to do:

Pick a reasonable time (and keep it in your head)...10pm....midnight...whenever? Ask them what they think and why. Ask them to be specific.

Let them know how important their safety is to you...and that you think about them AND all the other people that make things more or less safe.

Let them know you trust them but that its your job to be the parent, and that no one ever died from too early a curfew.

Let them know that the sneaking out isn't a good idea. Its a form of lying and it shows that their judgement isn't quite ready yet.

Ask them to suggest a time and a plan for communicating...cell phone check in, wanting to know where they are, are parents around or not, drinking etc.

And try to have this conversation with other people...or turn it over to somebody you both like and trust.

Its amazing how much better things go when more than two people are witnessing the conversation.

If talking about it is too hard...try writing letters back and forth...its goofy, low pressure, and works wonders...takes a lot of fight out of the battle, and you can save your energy for crazy hair cuts, sex, and the ''its my life..let me fail'' battles.

Be the parent they need, not the parent they ''like''. Good luck.

You didn't say what time your son's curfew is now, but I would be really upset if my child snuck out in the middle of the night and I would come down hard on that. That said, I would also try and work out with him what is an acceptable time to return home on weekend nights. For my daughter (17) it's usually between 12 and 1am depending on what, where, and with whom. At 15 she wasn't going out with friends on the weekends much so it wasn't an issue. She would just go over to someone's house and sleepover. I assumed that they just stayed at the house and didn't go out. I guess that might be a difference between girls and boys. You don't say where you live or what your son does when he's out (not that we REALLY know), but I don't think that Berkeley is all that safe at night. I grew up in NYC where I stayed out really late as a teenager and felt fine. Here the streets are dark and there aren't many people out late at night so that worries me. Also, there is a lot of violence these days...things to think about when you are talking about this with your son. Good luck! anon

I too am the parent of a 15 year old and struggling with similar issues but this is how I look at it. What are the things that are ok for teenagers to do that happen after 11 pm? My only answer is virtually nothing. Based on that and the concept that every year until he is 18 we will move the curfew later, our hs soph's curfew is 10:30 pm. That gives us 1 1/2 hours of leeway until he is 18 - as I consider midnight the latest until he is on his own. For special occasions (prom, etc) he can request an exception ahead of time. Mom

our city (Walnut Creek) has a curfew for under 18's of 10 pm on weekday nights and 12 pm on weekend nights. That is what we have used, though it hasn't stopped our son from sneaking out.

He is now 17.5 and behaving well, so we now often let him stay out later when he asks (that was something he really wanted and we said following the house rules was a precondition for that). We still do not let him spend the night places where there is no adult (we talk to parents) as it seems like that's when the most trouble happens--unsupervised parties. He has been beaten up and robbed and had some close calls. It's very hard... glad to have an almost grown up teen!

Well. The discussion would be moot until he wasn't grounded anymore. No matter when his curfew is, he snuck out of the house with the intention of fooling you and getting away with it...he shouldn't be going out at all for several weeks.

After that, I'd set his curfew at a time convenient to me -- certainly no later than 11 or 12 on a weekend night, and I would not let him stay at a friend's house unless he had previously cleared the plan -- specifically, I'd want to SEE him on any evening when his plans changed abruptly; the sudden urge not to go home after all is often a sign of partying.

The sneaking out would drive me mad -- a kid I can't trust can't be trusted out on a Friday or Saturday night, at all. Berkeley Parent

My 16 yr old has a 10:30 curfew on weekend nights and 8 pm on weeknights. I'd also be curious to hear what other parents are doing. I'm lucky, in that he understands this is about safety and hasn't given me a problem about it. Diana

I'd like to know how people enforce curfews. I can't stay up as late as my kids. And if I tell my 17 year old he's grounded, what's to stop him from going out? He already doesn't get any money from me, only food. I can take away occasional rides and the cell phone (that I pay for). I can make it uncomfortable for him to sleep in. Changing the locks, or telling him to live elsewhere, would be drastic, considering that he's not being defiant, just showing bad judgment (and not gotten into any actual trouble doing it). I'm upset but feel helpless.

Don't feel helpless. Don't get upset. You are the parent.

You are going to be uncool when you impose limits and you have to live with that. You do have leverage over your child - including food and cellphone - and a major part of it is your goodwill. You might as well start now as wait until your kid IS in trouble. I was tricked by having one kid who was never a problem and then the second pushed the limits more. You should certainly make it uncomfortable for your kid to disobey you - if necessary with a bucket of water when they sleep in after a non-permitted late night. You should also begin by sitting down and work out clearly what the ground rules are - first for yourself, then in consultation with your kid. Talk to the parents of friends. Get their landline numbers. Get your kid's friends' cellphone numbers so you can embarassingly call around and ask for your child. And talk to your kid, explain what you're doing and why and let them have input (but you make the rules). Fiona

Curfew for 10th grader

Nov 2001

I'd like to hear what other parents of teen girls ( 10th grade, or 16 yr. olds) do about curfews - both for weekends and weekdays. I have always insisted on knowing ( or tried to know) where my daughter is if she goes out with friends, with whom, and, if visiting a friend's house, confirm that a parent will be home. My daughter finds all this too restrictive. I'd be interested to hear how other parents feel. Thanks, Suzanne

I've never given a curfew because I don't let her just go hang. I have always insisted on knowing ( or tried to know) where my daughter is if she goes out with friends, with whom, and, if visiting a friend's house, confirm that a parent will be home. And I try to find out what they're doing, therefore how long she needs to be out. And she should call me if plans or locations change. So far, it's worked fine. She grouches, but puts up with it.

I also followed this procedure with my son, who is now a senior. I'm amazed that now I let him stay out until all hours (2 or 3 a.m.) and even all night. The reasons are that he's a male, he's 18, he's been responsible all these years in telling me where he is, and finally, I know, like and trust his friends and their families. In other words, I feel he's earned privileges. I'm not sure what I'll do with my daughter a few years from now. Barbara

Curfew for just-turned 16

July 2000

I have a just turned 16 year old son. He has a curfew of 12 AM, and I want a parent to be home when he goes out at night to other people's houses. He can go to parties if parents are home. (My son says these are not parties). None of the friends (girls or boys) he is currently hanging out with seem to have a curfew at all. (According to my son the other parents just need to know where the kids are. I know that the kids are not always honest about where they really are. I realize that this is very typical behavior for teens.) He is a good kid (but has done some experimenting in the past) and gets great grades. Am I off base here? I have tried to meet the parents of several of these friends, but they don't seem interested. I am wondering what the curfew is of other just turned 16 year old kids.

In response to curfews for just 16 teens: My just 16 daughter is very independent, and responsible. She is actually working at 2 great jobs this summer. HOWEVER Her curfew is 12, and she may not spend the night or attend parties at someone's house unless there are parents there. She cannot spend the night alone in our house either. I too have determined that other teens her age do not have curfews; many parents do not even check to see if kids arrive home safely. Last winter my daughter was asked to baby sit another 15 year old whose parents were out of town, and the kid was TOO scared to spend the weekend alone, so my daughter was asked to keep her company!! My daughter thinks I am Psycho with my rules.... signed -Mary (7/00)

Our 17.5 yr old curfew is 11:00pm except for special occasions then 12:00. Their driver's licenses have a midnight curfew! On school nights we expect 10:00pm with occasional negotiated exceptions.
Roger (7/00)

The 18-year-old has a midnight curfew on the weekends. If he is staying over at a friend's, he has to stay put after midnight. Some of his friends do not have curfews. Some have 1:30 am. The ones who drive have midnight curfews. Special exceptions can be arranged in advance, for instance a concert in the City that runs late, where I know how he's getting home and with whom. Most of his friends are not supposed to go to a friend's house unless there is a parent there, but this is hard to enforce and sometimes doesn't get enforced. The 15-year-old doesn't really have a formal curfew since he does not really go out on the weekends. If he goes out, usually a parent picks him up, and the pickup is before midnight. Anon.