My hubby Chris and I attended a graduation party last weekend. We found ourselves in a conversation with another parent about the readjustment process we all go through when our college kids return home for the summer. Amid our discussion about the delights of once again witnessing freshly messed-up bedrooms, tripping over even more pairs of shoes, etc., the woman we were speaking with commented, “One thing that’s hard is enforcing the curfew, isn’t it? Especially since they’re used to doing their own thing up at school.”
Chris and I exchanged glances of surprise.
I wrote a post a few years back on the whole curfew topic. But for those of you who weren’t following the ol’ blog back then, let me sum up the way Chris and I have chosen to handle curfews for our older teens (as in 17-yrs. old) and up:
We don’t set any.
We’re awful parents, right? Ha, ha!
Instead of issuing a curfew directive, we would have a discussion with our teen before they went out somewhere for the evening. We’d talk about what they had going on the next day, what time they felt they needed to be up in the morning, and how much sleep they thought they needed. Then we’d ask them to give us a time they felt was reasonable for returning that night.
Our oldest daughter Ashleigh hated this! “Just give me a time!” she’d wail.
But Chris and I have always felt our job as parents of teens is one of preparation. We’re preparing our kids for full-blown adulthood. Truly, it didn’t take long for Ashleigh to get the hang of it. And by the time she started her freshman year of college, she was totally responsible: Going to bed by 9:00 p.m. every night in order to be fresh and alert for her classes the following day.
Yeah, okay. Just kidding.
Seriously though, I think it’s easy to fall into a pattern of dictating rules to our kids, just as we did when they were younger and we had all the control. But really, isn’t our job as parents a strategic process of relinquishing that control. And hopefully, by guiding our kids to think things through the way we have, those skills will be well established once they’re on their own.
I’m not saying it’s always easy! I’m sure both our kids will testify that we’re not always successful at sticking to the “guidance only” part. But we recognize that in the long run, they need to think for themselves. Our kids are now 17 and 20, and so far neither of them has ever let us down in terms of setting a time to be home, and honoring that time.
As I was sharing the “curfew conversation” with my oldest, home from her sophomore year of college, I was further surprised when she told me she actually has friends--plural--the same age she is, whose parents still dictate curfews. This seems so strange to me! For the majority of the year, their kid could be out at all hours of the night, and they wouldn’t have a clue. But now that they’re back home, this 20-yr. old needs to be in the house by 11:00 p.m.?
So now I’m curious. I would love to hear thoughts on this from other parents. Is my philosophy on this totally off base? And if there are any parents of teens & twenties who do enforce a curfew, I’d love it if you shared your reasoning behind it.
What say you, fellow parents?