The Best Consequences for Teens Who Break Curfew

Give your teen consequences for staying out past curfew.
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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 she’s safe. Arriving home on time is a good way for your teen to show you she 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: 

1. Temporarily Reduce the Curfew Time

If your teen arrives home 20 minutes late, make his curfew 20 minutes earlier for a week. This logical consequence will help remind him 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 he shows you he's responsible with making his curfew for a week, return his curfew to the normal time.

2. Create Added Restrictions

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

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

3. Problem-Solve Together

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

For example, encourage her to set an alarm on her cellphone 30 minutes before curfew time. The alarm may reminder her it's time to start heading home. Rather than texting her to remind him to come home, that alarm could help her make a good choice on her 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 her own. But if she struggles to come up with much, offer a few suggestions while you're brainstorming.

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

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

4. Allow Your Teen to Earn Extra Freedom

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

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

5. Call the Police if You Have Safety Concerns

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 he’s not answering your calls or text messages, there may be times a call to the police is 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. 

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

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