The Best Consequences for Teens Who Break Curfew

Teen couple sitting in pick up truck bed at night on playing field

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Establishing a clear curfew is a helpful way for you to balance your teen’s need for freedom with your responsibility to make sure they are safe. Arriving home on time is a good way for your teen to show you they can behave responsibly.

But of course, most teens break curfew at least a time or two. The way you respond to your teen coming home late makes a big difference in how often it happens. 

If your child comes home late, don’t waste your energy yelling. And skip the long lecture about how worried you were or how something horrible could have happened. Instead, create consequences that teach your teen life lessons. Here are the most effective ways to respond when your teen breaks curfew: 

Temporarily Reduce Curfew Time

If your teen arrives home 20 minutes late, make curfew 20 minutes earlier for a week. This logical consequence will help remind your child of the importance of being home on time in the future.

This can be especially effective if your teen is less an hour late for his curfew and if it’s an infrequent violation. If they shows you they are responsible by making their curfew for a week, return the curfew to the normal time.

Create Added Restrictions

If your teen comes home more than an hour late, or breaks curfew a few times, added restrictions may be necessary to help them learn from their mistakes. Ground them from spending time with friends for the weekend or take away their electronics for a specific period of time.

Avoid taking away too many privileges for too long. Restricting access to electronics for a month, for example, will demotivate your child and can lead to rebellion. Your teen may give up trying to regain privileges. 

Problem-Solve Together

If your teen violates curfew, turn it into an opportunity to teach them to be more responsible. Work together to problem-solve how they can be home on time in the future.

For example, encourage them to set an alarm on their cellphone 30 minutes before curfew time. The alarm may remind them it's time to start heading home. Rather than texting your teen to remind them to come home, that alarm could help them make a good choice on their own.

Ask questions like, "What can you do to make sure you come home on time in the future?" Give your teen an opportunity to develop some solutions on their own. But if they struggle to come up with much, offer a few suggestions while you're brainstorming.

Also, talk to your teen about what they should do when they run into problems, like extra traffic on the road or a problem with a friend. Make it clear you don't want them to speed or risk their safety getting home 30 seconds before curfew.

Encourage them to call or text you so you are aware of the situation if they are going to be late. But make it clear that those things should be rare circumstances, not a nightly emergency.

Allow Your Teen to Earn Extra Freedom

Teens often complain their curfew time is too early. Let your teen know that until they can arrive home on time for their current curfew, you won’t extend the curfew time.

Create an incentive for your child to arrive home on time. For example, tell them that if they arrive home on time every day for two weeks, you’ll extend their Friday night curfew by 30 minutes. Rewarding good behavior can go a long way toward keeping your teen motivated to follow the rules.

Call the Police If Necessary

Make it clear to your teen that if you have any safety concerns, you won’t hesitate to call the police. If your teen is late for curfew and is not answering your calls or text messages, a call to the police may be warranted.

A phone call to the police shouldn’t be used as a threat or a punishment, but it should be used when you have legitimate safety concerns. 

A Word From Verywell

Teach your teen that it's important to follow the rules and treat others with respect. Part of being a responsible family member involves coming home at the established curfew time.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.