As a parent, I was adamant about curfews for our children. Our kids had a curfew of 10 pm on school nights and midnight on weekends, until they reached age 18 and had graduated from high school. Any variance from the appointed curfew had to be negotiated in advance and wasn’t usually approved, unless it was a very special occasion, like a Senior Prom.
When our kids were out at night, I would usually sit on the couch and watch TV until they arrived home. We would exchange pleasantries, and then I would go to bed. When curfew was violated, we had a discussion about how parents worry about their children, why they worry, and a penalty was imposed. The penalty was usually making the curfew earlier for the next weekend. Consistent enforcement seemed to prevent repeat offenses.
Since we had nine children, I played Curfew Cop for over 20 years. These are the reasons that I felt it necessary to wait for my children to come home before I went to bed.
- Kids have no good reason to stay out late. Socialization is very important to teenagers but it doesn’t need to be done late into the night, when fatigue could impair judgment.
- Curfews help guard against serious problems. Crime, alcohol and drug use, auto accidents and teenage pregnancy statistics validate that statement.
- Children need help in establishing good health habits. Establishing good sleeping patterns is necessary for learning and proper brain development. It is also an important habit to develop for holding a job.
- Curfews teach teenagers to be responsible. Learning how to make and keep commitments is part of becoming a responsible adult. Complying with a curfew can be a difficult choice when friends have more lenient parents, so it is a good testing ground.
- Waiting up gave me the chance to assess the condition of my kids when they came home. Knowing that they will be looking their dad in the eye and explaining how their evening went was a good way to help our kids make proper decisions earlier in the evening. Sometimes, teenagers will come home with problems or concerns and want to talk without anyone else around.
- Enforcing curfews shows love. One of my daughters wrote this, “Dad (would be) sitting up every weekend night waiting for us to come in. We knew he would be there on the couch, not tucked in to bed waiting for us to come wake him up. He wanted to be awake and completely aware of what we looked like, smelled like, acted like when we came in from our wanderings.” Another daughter wrote, “He realized how important it was to be awake and aware of when we were walking in the door and what we were doing all night, making sure we weren’t getting into too much trouble.”
Our children are all adults now. I have never regretted the sleep I lost and I am grateful for the chance I had to show my kids that I was concerned about their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being by being there for them when they came home at night.