How to Set a Curfew That Your Teen Respects


Teens and curfews go together like oil and water. Check out our tips on how to work together to set a curfew your teen respects (not just fears or obeys) and how to enforce it without resorting to fear tactics and threats.

Teens and curfews go together like oil and water. You set them, they either grudgingly accept them or do their very best to stretch them. Sometimes, they outright break them. We were all teens once, so I think we can relate to the whole teens and curfew dilemma from both sides of the parenting fence. So how do you set a curfew that your teen actually respects? With these tips and tricks, learn how to set a curfew and how to enforce it.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About Your Teens’ Friends

Teens and Curfews: How to Set Them, How to Enforce Them

If you want your teen to respect your curfew- and I mean truly respect it, not just say “okay, whatever”- you have to make sure he understands WHY you’re setting it. Respect is earned, not freely given. A curfew hasn’t earned respect when it’s just an arbitrary time slapped down in front of your teen.

Give the curfew real meaning

Sit down with your teen and talk about the reasons behind the curfew. Are there laws in your town that require kids under a certain age to be indoors by 10 pm? Do they have a “Cinderella” driver’s license that needs them back in the driveway by midnight?

Talk about the health reasons behind the curfew, too. Humans of all ages need rest, regardless of age. That fact seems to get lost when it comes to teen rationale. Often, teenagers misinterpret curfews as a control issue. Explaining to your child that their growing body needs rest to be healthy from a young age will be a great foundation. I have found that as my son has aged, coming into his tweens, that the foundations I had set are there, but need extra support.

Related: Will Lack Of Sleep As A Teen Make You Overweight?

That support has become a mantra I use in every objection…

“But, I’m the only kid in middle school who goes to bed at 9!” he’ll object.

“I love you, and we need to work together to keep you healthy and safe,” I say.

“But, I don’t want to be the first person to leave the party!”

“I love you, and  we need to work together to keep you healthy and safe.”

Having a positive answer that you stand behind, whatever it may be, will be a great tool. Your teen will get sick of hearing it, but they will know it by heart. They will also eventually get that the curfew isn’t about control, it’s about their health and safety.

Work together to set a reasonable curfew

Setting a time frame can be equally is tricky. Growing up, I had set-in-stone curfew. My parents were never willing to bend the rules and once I became an adult…I went overboard enjoying the freedom. Try a flexible curfew that allows small adjustments on special nights or under certain circumstances.

It’s also important to work with your teen to set a reasonable curfew. Likely, your teen is going to come in with a higher number (or later time) than you really find acceptable. If this happens, use those parent negotiating skills you’ve honed over the years. Come in significantly lower than what you’re “ideal” time is. Then work your way to a happy medium. That way, you both win. Teens need to score wins in parental debates. It prepares them for a future where everything is a negotiation, from buying a car to settling on a salary. If you never let them win, they’ll never learn those skills.

Talk to other parents to find out what their curfew is, as well. I had a friend who was allowed to stay out later than everyone else. Of course, since everyone else had to be home earlier, she was always home by their curfew! So maybe her mom had something there. Still, there is a such thing as too early when it comes to curfews. Be fair. If everyone else gets to go home at 10 on weekends and you’re setting your teen’s curfew for 7, it’s a bit embarrassing to your teen. In a time where kids are bullied for far less, you don’t want to paint a target on your child by making them the odd one out.

Teens & Curfews: How to Enforce It

Even with all that, your teen will need to go through the trial and error of their choices. This will enable them to make smarter decision on their own in the future. Chances are, they’re going to miss it at some point.

The best piece of advice I received from fellow parents was to set a check-in for missed curfews. When talking with others, the unanimous response to a late arrival was a phone call that made everyone aware of the late issue. A stark punishment for missing curfew and a heated discussion at late hour will be unproductive and make your teen feel they have to rush home to try and make the curfew. This can lead to disastrous results. Make the discussion over missing curfew happen the next day when everyone has had some sleep. This will be less emotionally charged, and give your child time to think about what consequence should follow.

When your child misses curfew, try to take the circumstances and how often it happens into consideration. If it’s the first time it’s ever happened and it was only by a half an hour, give your teen a one-time pass. If it happens again and your teen missed their 10:30 curfew, try setting it back to 10 for a week. Earlier curfews are also a great way limit the privilege when grades or work performance starts to suffer. This method works well with underlining the responsibilities and consequences of missing a curfew.

Remember, these tips work best when you work with your teen to help them understand and respect their curfew. Respecting something is a lot different than obeying or fearing it. By helping your teen respect their curfew, you’ll be setting them up for a future of good habits.

Do you have any tips for dealing with teens and curfews? Share in the comments!

17 thoughts on “How to Set a Curfew That Your Teen Respects”

  1. These are some really great tips! My parents were pretty strict about curfews with us but they were given on a case by case basis and typically with a reason stated so we never questioned them.

  2. I always respected curfew because however late I came in one night was how much earlier I had to come in the next week. So not fun. 😉

  3. We are entering the teen years so this will be helpful. Already we have to explain why and the reasons but find it helpful when there’s a reason behind it. I’ll have to remember these.

  4. I never really had a curfew growing up, but I also never stayed out too late. I think that some of it depends on the kid. I was never the type or went out and stayed super late. but I know some teens really push the boundries.

  5. Oh this curfew is right around the corner for us. Our teen isn’t driving yet but I know he can get his permit soon. I like the idea to talk with him and get an agreement for what is reasonable. I remember how I felt having a curfew when I lived at home as a freshman in college and know we need to discuss it so he doesn’t have to sneak around to get what he wants.

  6. My favorite tip was working together with them to set the curfew. I have often found that collaborating with them makes them feel more involved and like it was their decision as well which helps them respect it more.

  7. I really like your advice about trying to avoid late night arguments when curfews are missed. You are absolutely right that any discussion happening then would only make things worse. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I don’t have kids yet but feel like when I get to this point these will help. Looking back it seems like my parents implemented some of these!

  9. You’re so right about the call if they will be late. You never want a teen driver to drive unsafely home. That is defeating the purpose. Great ideas and advice!
    Karen |

  10. Some of these are great tips, I won’t have to deal with this for a while yet, But having a flexible curfew depending on circumstances seemed to work out well for me growing up. Although mostly I worked and went to school…so there wasn’t much curfew needed…I’m sure my daughter is going to give us a run for our money, she already does at 2!

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