Advice on Curfews for Teens

Setting a Blanket Curfew and Establishing Consequences

Parents with arms around teenager
digitalskillet/E+/Getty Images

What curfew rules should you set for your teenager? A curfew sets the expectation of when your teen will be home, for their safety and out of respect for the rest of the family. You will also need to set and enforce the consequences for breaking the curfew agreement.

Each family will have their own needs for setting limits. Perhaps you or your spouse needs to get up early for work, so it's important the kids be home and quiet at an earlier hour.

Or, you may note your teen has trouble getting started in the morning and it may be due to his late night habits.

Curfew rules can be adjusted as your teen grows in age and responsibility. The curfew for a 14-year old will likely be different from that of a 17-year old teen. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a curfew for teens aged 14 to 16 of 8 or 9 p.m. on school nights and 10 or 11 p.m. on weekends. A more flexible curfew might be appropriate for a teen in his last year of high school.

Do's and Don'ts for Setting Curfew Rules for Teens

Do: Set an appropriate blanket curfew. A blanket curfew is a time set that your teen will have to schedule their activities around. It doesn’t change and helps your teen understand limits and boundaries. It does not have to be the same time on weeknights as on weekends, but it does remain consistent from weekday to weekday and weekend to weekend.

You can always add or restrict this time when they have something special to do or you need them to be home earlier.

Do: When setting a blanket curfew, talk to your teen about what it means to have this responsibility. Discuss the trust you are placing in them to be home on time. Tell them you will still need to know where they are and what they are doing.

Set up a parenting contract and agree to the times you both have set.

Do not allow them to just walk out the door and say I'll see you at such and such a time. They still should tell you where they are going and call in if their plans change.

Do: Allow some leeway on special occasions such as proms. When your teen is going to have a special activity, discuss with them where they will be, whether they plan on going anywhere else during that time, and what time the activity will be over. Decide how long it is reasonable to take to get home from the activity and base the curfew on that time.

Do not: allow them to call a half hour before they are supposed to be in to ask if they can sleep over at a friend's house. This is generally a red flag saying "something is up."

Do: Set a reasonable time for all involved. If you would like to get some sleep before midnight on a Friday evening, then set the time for 11 p.m.

Do not get sucked into what "everyone else is allowed to do." While your teen's best friend may have an 11 p.m. curfew, you have to get up at 5 a.m. for work, and in your household, everyone needs to be in by 9 p.m. so you can relax and go to bed.

Consequences of the Curfew for Teens

The consequences of noncompliance with the curfew can vary with the degree of violation.

For example, you may set a 5-minute grace period. After that time, your teen earns a "late" demerit. You can set a penalty such as an hour earlier curfew on one weekend for a certain number of lates. Or, if your teen is 15 minutes late, there is an automatic penalty of an hour earlier curfew the next weekend, or even a grounding. Other consequences may be a restriction on dating, texting, or using the car.

While your teen is likely to dislike having the restrictions of a curfew, it is also a solid excuse for them to give their friends when being pressured. They can always refer to their curfew and you as the enforcer to get out of situations they would rather not get into.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Staying Out Late & Curfews, 8/3/2011

Continue Reading