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Curfew for Teens: Why My 17-Year-Old Doesn’t Have a Curfew

When I was in high school I had a curfew. Then, the summer after I graduated, my mother lifted that curfew as long as she knew where I was and I didn’t break her trust. I think having that extra freedom helped prepare me for college.  

Within a few short months after graduating from high school, many teens go away to college where there are fewer rules and no curfews. They have to decide for themselves when to go home and get rest, and when to opt to stay in and get their school work done.

A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend who, like me, has a 17-year-old son. She said they were having a terrible time with curfew for her teen. He wanted to stay out all night and he wasn’t obeying the curfew rules and she never knew where he was.

She asked me if I was having the same issue with my son. I was very careful with my response. The truth is, my son doesn’t have a curfew. But I didn’t want to sound smug with my response because there are very specific reasons why I don’t impose a curfew on my teen.

I don’t think the same rules need to apply to all teens. Every kid has specific boundaries that work best for them. But her question made me think about why not having curfew has worked for us.

Why Having No Curfew Works for Us

My son likes to go to bed early.

My son’s sleep habits are probably the biggest reason why he doesn’t have a curfew. He likes to come home and be in his own bed to sleep. Plus, he likes to wake up early and go to the gym, or he has to be at work early. He knows himself well enough to realize he doesn’t feel well if he stays up too late, or if he sleeps on the floor or sofa at a friend’s house.

He has never come home later than he said he would.

If my son says he’ll be home at 10, he pulls in at 10. If he says he’ll be home at midnight, that’s when he arrives. And if he started to waiver, and I wasn’t sure when he was going to be home because he was always late, I would definitely set a time for him to be home. But the fact that he always keeps in touch never leaves me to worry or wonder what he’s doing. I can count on him to do what he says he’s going to do—and that’s helped establish trust between us. 

He always tells me where he is.

If my son’s at his girlfriend’s house and they decide to go to a friend’s house, he lets me know. If he’s going to the gym or wants to run errands after work, he sends me a text. His communication with me is consistent and I’m always aware of where he is and when he’s on the road.

He hasn’t gotten in trouble in a long time.

My son isn’t perfect. He’s a typical teenager who is going to do teenage stuff. That’s not a free pass and he knows it. When he first got his license, he drove around with kids in the car, which is against the law where we live. His father saw him and he was punished accordingly. Because he hasn’t done anything like this in over a year, he gets the independence and freedom he wants.

I want him to manage his own life, and this is a great start.

If my son was breaking rules and laws, and I never knew where he was, he would have a set curfew. But I think giving him the freedom to decide when it’s time to come home has taught him to make wise decisions. And he has seen what can happen if he doesn’t. He’s also learned that it’s not fun to get up and go to work after three hours of sleep.

I think these lessons would take longer to learn if I lectured him instead of letting him experience it on his own.  

I have two younger children and I’m not sure if they will have the same flexibility with their curfew as my oldest son. And that’s okay. I used to feel like I had to treat them all exactly the same, but they are autonomous beings with different personalities, which can also mean a need for different rules.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that we can’t make rules for our children based on other kids, or on what other parents are doing. My son doesn’t have a curfew and, while it may not work for every family, it works for us.

Katie Bingham-Smith had three kids in three years and crafts herself silly in order to stay sane. She loves to write, wear faux leather pants, eat at burger joints, and make beautiful things. You can see more on her Facebook and Instagram.

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