Setting Curfews for Your Tweens

Mother and daughter (10-11) discussing in kitchen
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Curfews are an important teaching tool for parents and a great way for tweens to learn about your rules and expectations. Helping your tween understand his limits is an important lesson of childhood, and also an important step to developing independence. While your tween may be ready to venture out a little bit on his own, he's not ready to know when it's time to come home without your guidance.

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 Laws

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.

Explain Your Reasonings

It's important your tween understand why his or her 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 or she is visiting a friend or going to the mall. Explain why you insist on adult supervision, and that your goal is to keep your child safe and to prevent your tween from stumbling into situations he or she is not yet ready to handle. Make other rules crystal clear as well. Is your child allowed to ride his or her bike home in the dark? If your tween is going to be late, should he or she 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 extracurricular 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 or she forgets the curfew or ignores it all together. For example, if your son or daughter arrives home 20 minutes after curfew, you may require that he or she come home 20 minutes early the next time.

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 or she is worthy of your trust. It's also important that your child know that the curfew is in place for his or her protection, and for your tween to show you that he or she is responsible and mature enough to keep curfew.