Battle tips for the curfew standoff

Curfew is always one of the big points of contention between parents and teens. Teens want to stay out late; parents want them home in bed. These battle tips will help you negotiate the curfew wars.

Mom and teen argue over curfew

Communication is key

To avoid arguments and conflicts in the home, mutual respect and communication are key. When it comes to curfew, parents need to communicate clearly why their rules exist. It shouldn’t simply be a point of “my house, my rules.” Your teen deserves more respect than that.

Explain the reasoning behind the curfew — dangers of staying out late, consequences of inadequate sleep, importance of commitments in the morning and so on. By laying down the ground rules and defining your sound reasoning behind the rules, your teen is more likely to abide.

Setting the curfew rules

“Rules are very important because parents do need to establish limits for numerous reasons, such as safety and teaching responsibility,” says Dr. Kimberly Williams, Psy.D. “I do believe rules, framed as expectations, should be established beforehand and not established out of conflict or as punishment unless absolutely necessary. Rules can be collaborative. In my practice I’ve helped teens and parents brainstorm together on which expectations can be established and respected by each of them. Teens like to be part of this process.”

Effective parenting

When children reach their teens, it’s hard for parents to pull back from protecting and controlling them all the time. However, it’s essential for their development for teens to have some freedom and responsibility.

“There are different styles and approaches to parenting and setting rules. Whatever the content — curfew, chores in the home — research shows that effective parents raise well-adjusted children who are more self-reliant, self-controlled and positively curious than children raised by parents who are punitive, overly strict, authoritarian or permissive,” says Allison S. Baker, M.D., director of the Adolescent Program at ColumbiaDoctors Eastside. “Effective parents operate on the belief that both the child and the parent have rights and that the needs of parents and child are important. Effective parents don’t need to use physical force to discipline the child, but are more likely to set clear rules and explain why these rules are important. Therefore, if curfew is important for you, set it clearly, and explain why it matters. Effective parents reason with their children and consider their child’s points of view even though they may not agree with them. Effective parents do all of the above in a respectful manner.”


Curfew doesn’t have to be set in stone. It can be flexible and negotiable depending on the circumstances, such as special occasions or events.

“Rather than a hard-and-fast curfew or other non-negotiable rules, think about your goal,” explains Dr. Cynthia Edwards, professor of psychology at Meredith College. “If your goal is to keep your teen as safe as possible and to encourage them to make good choices, discuss their plans with them, and come to an agreement on how they will check in with you about time and whereabouts. Cell phones are wonderful tools. Ask them to call and check in at key intervals, such as when they are changing locations. Reward good communication with more freedom. Less communication requires you to be more restrictive.”

Admit when something needs to be changed. “It’s OK to be flexible and all right to renegotiate a rule that is no longer needed or that is not working,” says Williams. “Simply explain to your teen that based on X-Y-Z, your thinking has changed on the matter, and present the new expectation.”

Mutual respect and open dialogue can help you through any battle with your teen, including the common conflict over curfew. No matter how difficult, try to see things from your teen’s point of view and continue to talk with them about why you have established curfew and the other rules in your household.

More on parenting teens

Teaching your teen about time management
4 Ways to talk so your teen listens
5 Important talking points for your teen


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