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Rule 27: Cut Out the Curfew

Aug 22, 2008
Shawna Todd is the happily married mother of two children who has learned to fill her plate daily and eat through it by 11 p.m. each night.

Believe it or not, negotiating weekend curfew times for your teen driver doesn't have to be a battle.

How does one go about setting a reasonable curfew time for their newly licensed 16-year-old high school student? Addressing this issue can be a daunting task and most likely a dilemma that faces every household. Once your teen is issued that much-sought-after freedom pass of a driver's license from the DMV, your parenting skills will be put to the test.

If you thought you lost sleep when they were a newborn, think again. Those tiny worry lines all of a sudden become much more deeply ingrained in your face as you watch them put the car in reverse and jet out the driveway. After trying several approaches, we found the following solution to setting a reasonable curfew time.

As we all know, children will push the limit and want to stay out much longer than their parents can keep their eyes open. When our son first started to drive we found ourselves constantly trying to negotiate with him as to a reasonable time to return home on Friday and Saturday nights. In the beginning we were the time initiators, giving him the expected time to return home. We made it very clear that whatever time we set, he was expected to be in the door and on his way to bed, not driving in and parking the car. He was pretty good at staying within his parameters, and if he was going to be a few minutes late, he knew that a phone call at anytime of the night was appreciated versus his parents sitting, waiting and worrying.

This approach worked for awhile, but as his social calendar grew, he wanted stay out later. Each week he would try to get us to lengthen the time and occasionally we did, but it was a constant discussion, and it was growing old fast. Truly, it was a war over extra minutes, and the battle of the clock reared its ugly head every single weekend. We found ourselves groaning, he was complaining, and all were getting tired of the negotiations. Something had to change!

By pure chance our 13-year-old daughter was taking a conflict resolution training course at about the time we could think of no other approach to this daunting curfew dilemma. As we sifted through the paper work she brought home, the wheels started turning, the light bulb came on, and our answer to this whole curfew mess was right there. Hallelujah!

Answer their question with a question. Right from the very beginning this approach worked. We can now say that "from experience" when either of our children asks "What time do you want me home?" We found it best to not give a time, but instead answer them back with a question. "What time would you like to come home?"

More times than not they always gave a time that was earlier than we were thinking. Even from our seasoned son who we had struggled with in the beginning. Oh my, could it be this easy? Yes!

This approach gave them a feeling of control and setting their own rule. The big plus: They were always timely. Occasionally, we would extend the time by 30 minutes as a reward as long as it was reasonable. We never allowed a time after 12:15 a.m. Why the 15 extra minutes? That way they could leave their event at midnight, not feel like the first one leaving and have the time needed to drive home.

Now, in the process of surviving our second teen driver, we can honestly say we do not think either ever caught on to our reverse psychology.

As excerpted from "42 Rules (tm) for Working Moms" Super Star Press, 2008.
About the Author
Laura Lowell is the executive editor and author of "42 Rules for Working Moms." She has gathered practical advice and information from working moms all over the world to share with others. She lives and works in Silicon Valley with her husband and two girls. http://www.42rules.com/working_moms/index
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