What time do you call this?

When your teenager starts having a social life beyond afternoon playdates, curfews are important means of establishing clear and safe boundaries. Start strict and tight, becoming more flexible later. Do not compromise on what you feel is fair and appropriate for your child.

Be prepared to listen and to allow ventilation of feelings and opinions, but remain calmly adamant regarding your negotiated settlement:
“I know you feel midnight would be fair but I would prefer 10pm, although I am prepared to settle at 11pm. When you turn 15 we can renegotiate and discuss a later time on condition that you cooperate with this curfew for now.”

Be prepared to be flexible if special circumstances arise, but make sure your teen understands that this exception will not become the rule. Beware the manipulative teen who then puts pressure on you later: “You are so unfair. You let me come home at midnight when it was Robert’s party but now it’s back to 11 again. I’m not coming home then. You can’t force me!”

An appropriate reply could be: “We agreed that the circumstances of Robert’s party were special. The deal is that your curfew is still 11, so if you are late, you will have chosen to be grounded next weekend. It’s up to you.”

Mall minded

Malls have become essential meeting places for teens. Groups of girls dress to kill and roam around in ‘packs’, hoping to be noticed by groups of boys. They then exchange cellphone numbers and the game is on: MXit and SMSing become their modus operandi for establishing relationships.

Firstly, children under 12 should not be left without adult supervision. If they are invited to a movie, a parent should ensure that tickets are bought and the children safely seated in the theatre. As they get older, the boundaries can be slowly moved.
If a group of 13 to 14-year-olds meets at the mall, the parents should establish the rules very clearly: “You may go to the movie and then for a milkshake at McDonald’s. I will fetch you there at 7.30pm.”

Older teens should have established their ability to meet friends and to maintain parental trust; however, if your under-18 is nowhere to be found when you wait outside the mall in your car at 11pm, he should know what the consequences will be.

Party time

Parents of teenagers need to be very vigilant when it comes to parties – especially those ‘open’ parties where a teenager invites friends to her home without limiting the number. The word circulates and hordes of teenagers descend on this venue. This sort of open-ended, boundary-less situation is where serious problems abound. They are the ideal breeding ground for drug pedlars and the distribution of alcohol.

  • Be vigilant, firm and adamant regarding phoning and checking. If necessary, do a spot check at some point before curfew.
  • Never drop your teen at the gate without checking on supervision.
  • Never relax your vigilance and the firm boundaries you have set.

They may think you are ruining their lives now but they will almost certainly thank you later (although, to be perfectly honest, it may be many years later).

Club crazy

The bottom line here is that clubs are not for under-18s. They are adult entertainment centres where alcohol is sold and drugs are often easily obtainable. No matter how they are gift-wrapped to look innocent and innocuous, they are still clubs, and are there for adults, not teenagers.

The responsibility of caring, involved parents is to put an impermeable boundary up around this issue. Clubs are out of bounds for under-18s. End of story. No negotiation.

Parents need to support each other on this one. Parent networks need to double-check on where their teens are and what they are doing. They need to stress to their teens that they will trust them until they break the trust by defying the rules. Once the trust is broken, the negotiated consequences will be put in place.

This is an extract from Teenagers need Boundaries (Metz), available from Kalahari.net at R118.96.

Do you allow your teens to go to parties? What do you think is a reasonable curfew for teenagers?

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