Saturday, August 7, 2010

The perfect curfew rule for parents with teenagers

From 2001 through 2004, a niece of mine lived under my roof while she went to college.  She lived here because her mother basically abandoned her, and her father lived in Columbus, Georgia.  She had no place else to go, except for a dorm or an apartment, which wasn't financially feasible.  At the time, we had our three natural children living here, but they were all either "tweeners" or tykes.

I gave my niece a curfew of midnight, regardless of what night of the week it was.  She promptly missed three out of four, getting home at 00:30, 01:09 and 01:20, respectively.  It was time for consequences.

So here's what I did:  I told her that from now on, she was to be in the door by 24:00, or she was on restriction for two weeks.  No negotiation.  No fudging.  If she was stuck in traffic, broken down or was facing some other emergency that would cause her to be late, she had to call and let us know exactly where she was and give us an ETA.  Otherwise, the rule was in full effect.  If she walked in the door at 00:01, then she was the one putting herself on restriction--not me--because she knew the rules beforehand.

It worked perfectly.

Now, the two "tweeners" are teenagers--one is 18, the other 15.  We also have two other young'uns now, too.  One is 9, the other is 6.  The two teenagers are under the same rule (the 15-year old has a 10:30 curfew).  If they are late by one minute, they are on restriction for two weeks.  No negotiation.  No fudging. 

So far, it's working perfectly.

I think knowing the rules of the game beforehand is essential to learning how to be a responsible adult.  My niece is now married with a child of her own, and during a conversation with her earlier this week, she told me that the structure we'd given her was hard for her to deal with at first.  Most of her friends faced no such structure and could essentially do as they please. She resented it at first, but then she saw many of her friends get in trouble.  The old saying that "nothing good happens to kids after midnight" was witnessed several times.  One of her friends got a girlfriend pregnant.  Another was involved in an accident.  Another was involved in an altercation that left him scarred for life, and a fourth was arrested for DUI.  Once she knew the reason for the rule, and she understood that rules would always be enforced, every time, it made her understand and appreciate something that this country seems to be rapidly abandoning--The rule of law.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.