How to Establish and Effectively Enforce Your Child's Curfew
Curfews help kids enjoy a bit of freedom and establish a line of responsibility. Here's how to make it work.

Curfews are a necessary parenting component that will ensure your child’s safety. It’s important you have a few systems in place that will help your kid adhere to their curfew and develop habits of responsible behavior. Here is a guide of how you should establish and effectively enforce your kid’s curfew:

Set Expectations

Have a sit-down meeting with your child about their curfew time. The time you set should be based on their age, maturity level and whether or not they’ve displayed consistent, responsible behavior in the past. Once you’ve communicated their curfew time, brainstorm possible scenarios where they may be tempted to break curfew and discuss how they can prevent being home late. Give your child a bit of agency and create a list of consequences so they can add their own ideas to the list. Allowing them some choice will motivate them to stick to their curfew schedule as they will feel more involved in the agreement.

Don’t Bend the Rules

If you allow a grace period, say 10 minutes past curfew, that could easily turn into 15 and eventually 30 minutes. Explain that promptness isn’t just a curfew-based practice, but is a practice for more high-stake situations that require timeliness, like school or a job. When your child comes home late, wait until the next morning for a conversation about the consequences. A late-night heated and emotional discussion about their tardiness won’t be effective and could escalate the situation. Instead, have a calm, direct conversation the next day where they can explain why they were late, what they should do next time and what their consequences are.

Implement a Reward System

While your child shouldn’t be rewarded every time they make curfew, there should be a way they can earn a later curfew or another agreed upon reward over time. In fact, research has shown that teens respond better to positive motivating factors than punishing negative ones. Set measurable goals that your child can meet. For example, if they make their curfew for an entire month, you may extend it by a half hour to an hour. Explain that they are only able to keep this new curfew time if they continue to be responsible and there aren’t any instances of abusing the extension. If they break the curfew, it should return back to the original time that was in place before their reward, until you feel as though you can trust them again.

Utilize Tools

Utilize tools that will help your child stay accountable and assist you in tracking their arrival time at home. Oftentimes, your child may come home after you have gone to sleep. Rather than having them wake you up to announce their arrival, set up home security cameras from a company like Lorex that allow footage access via your smartphone or other digital devices or indoor cameras like this Nest with two-way talkback capability and an incredible 8x digital zoom. You can quickly check the camera recording and its timestamp for confirmation that your child made curfew. If your child is consistently late or struggles to keep track of the time, schedule reminders on their smartphone using an app. This is a great way to support your child in building responsibility and learning how to stick to a schedule.

Kyla Stelling is enrolled in the Master in Teaching program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Previous career roles have entailed everything from design and event planning to public relations and child care. In her spare time, Kyla hikes the Cascade Mountains, designs elaborate cakes, and writes alongside her cuddly cat, Wellington.

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