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Episode 83

Do teenagers actually need curfews? 

September 18, 2023

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[Kyle]: In today's podcast, we're going to talk about curfew. Do you need to have one? Is it important? What if you didn't? Is there another way of looking at this? And how do we help keep our kids safe and invested in wanting to come home on time? So, I think you'll find this one helpful. 

[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 83 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And you know, Sara, today we're going to talk about curfews, okay?

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: Like, as school's full blown going on, parents are thinking “when is the right time we should have that kid get home?”, you know?

[Sara]: Uh huh, and kids want to hang out and have fun with their friends.

[Kyle]: Yes

[Sara]: And maybe they don't always want to come home.

[Kyle]: Yes, and so, especially because maybe it was a little more lenient and stuff over the summer, and they're like “Now it's school time. We got to focus in and get this stuff-- So, we got to have this curfew down” and so, there's a lot of negotiating going on, a lot of discussions. Now, before we dive into that topic, we do have a speaking event going on in Tulsa this weekend. So, on Friday of this week, we are going to be speaking at Anthem and Anthem is a church in town. We're going to be doing a conference from 6 to 9:30, and we are going to be covering three areas: parenting from the lens of faith, parenting with the knowledge of science, and the essential skills to parenting. It's a presentation we really enjoy doing, and we're always fine tuning it to make it even more helpful for parents. So, if you are in town, you can go to our speaking site on You can go there and find the link and you can see the and we'd love to have you out there, and if you have any speaking events that you're thinking about for us, we'd love to send them our way, and you can do that through the site, okay? Now, Sara, did you have a curfew growing up?

[Sara]: Maybe a couple times.

[Kyle]: Okay.

[Sara]: I know, I know, I'm strange.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: I didn't really have much of a curfew. We just sort of would discuss what time we were going to be home based on the event and people and stuff.

[Kyle]: Okay, yeah. Well, I didn't have a curfew either.

[Sara]: Okay

[Kyle]: I mean, there was-- Because it seemed like it was more-- We did it according to whatever was going on, right? But there wasn't the standard time. Now, I knew a lot of friends who had curfews.

[Sara]: Me too. Most everyone I knew. I was the only one who really didn't have this just curfew thing.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, in light of that, are curfews necessary?

[Sara]: I think they're helpful.

[Kyle]: Okay.

[Sara]: Yeah.

[Kyle]: What's helpful about them?

[Sara]: It's helpful to know when they're going to be home.

[Kyle]: Uh huh, that's a good thing.

[Sara]: Yeah. It's helpful for taking care of them and keeping them safe. There's a lot of helpful pieces to curfews, usually with that is, who are you with and how are you getting around and where are you going to be.

[Kyle]: I think the most--

[Sara]: [Unintelligible] into curfew.

[Kyle]: When I'm talking to parents who have curfews, the most compelling thing to me is “I want to go to sleep”, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, because it’s helpful to know when they’re gonna be home soon, I can go to bed.

[Kyle]: I know, I know. Yes. Almost all the parents are like “I can't go to sleep until I know where they're at” and we couldn't either. We wouldn't just go to sleep like “Oh, I hope they get home okay”, you know? Like, you want to know they're home. So, that's a big important piece of maybe having a curfew, right? Is it gives the parents some peace of mind “the kid is home, I can go to bed”. Because as long as they're out and rightly so, there is some concern, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: There's some concern about “Are they safe? What's going on? Are they going to need me?”, you know? And so, at least maybe one parent can sleep. At least one of the parents is typically up worrying about that. So, that might be an important reason to have a curfew, right? What is typically the intent behind a curfew? I think most, like you said, most parents have it.

[Sara]: Yeah, I was gonna say.

[Kyle]: They think it's a given. You got to give them one. What's the intent behind that?

[Sara]: Yeah. Probably just to make sure their home is safe. I mean, I would feel like one of the big one is so otherwise, they'll just stay out all night and so, I need to make sure that they're back.

[Kyle]: Well, the intent is also, yeah, that bad things happen at night, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: We all know statistically there's more drunk drivers out at night. There's not a lot open at night. It’s just like--

[Sara]: “What are you doing?”

[Kyle]: Yeah, “What are you doing up at night?”

[Sara]: Just getting into trouble.

[Kyle]: And we've all been kids, and we know when we were out late at night, maybe the best decisions weren't made all the time. Because you're tired, you're silly, you're goofy. There's really like, less accountability at that time.

[Sara]: It's not really structured. So, it's a free for all to whatever random idea someone might have some.

[Kyle]: So, positive outcomes of a curfew is possibly it keeps your kids safer, right? It helps them stay away from making dumber decisions, you know? It also gives you the peace of mind so you can go to sleep and I'm sure listeners, if you're listening, I'm sure you have even more, but there's a lot of positive outcomes to doing it, okay?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: Now, I don't know if people have thought about this, but what are some negative outcomes of having a curfew?

[Sara]: Okay. Yeah, this is a new you're throwing me this one. Okay. Negative just where I'm just imposing a curfew on them?

[Kyle]: Yeah.

[Sara]: Okay. Then, I'm kind of taking the reins and they're not really getting a chance to practice some responsibility and decision making.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and maybe they think-- This one happens to a lot of teenagers I'm helping, Sara, is they think that “it's my parents’ job to control me”, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: “If they didn't set this curfew, oh, my gosh, you don't know what I would get into” and so, they think the only reason why they're not making those dumb choices is because their parents imposed a curfew on them.

[Sara]: Yeah, and missing out.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, that's another outcome for them. They would say it's a negative outcome, “I might miss out”. That's a big one. So, the FOMO aspect of it that they're like “all my friends when I go home, they're all like ‘you have to go home? Are you serious? We're going to do all these fun activities and go to this thing and do that thing’” and so, the kid will go home and--

[Sara]: And teenagers are wired at that point to be focused on their friend group, right? And not that parents and families aren't important, but their brain is focusing on this outside world and so, taking that away feels like “you're taking that away from me, this most important thing” is to them a really horrible outcome.

[Kyle]: Okay, and then, what could be some negative outcomes of parents not having a curfew?

[Sara]: Yeah. Sometimes really bad decisions, harmful decisions are made and you know, when group think, sometimes when people are in big groups, they do things they wouldn't do alone.

[Kyle]: Yes

[Sara]: Sometimes you're tired, some things are happening and you get in positions or situations you wouldn't normally find yourself in and lots of--

[Kyle]: Well, and kids--

[Sara]: I think we all have a good long list of things that can happen.

[Kyle]: I’ve been thinking of stories, but I'm thinking of where kids are very impulsive, right?

[Sara]: Yeah, and when you're tired, you are more impulsive.

[Kyle]: And their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, so they're not making-- Their ability even to assess a situation and make those decisions sometimes is hindered, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: I'm thinking, as you were talking, for the most part, I didn't do a lot of stupid stuff, but there were times where we were out late and at my high school-- It's a big high school, so it's one of the biggest in Oklahoma and I remember when we could drive, one of my friends “let's take the car and see if we can drive through the outside hallway areas of the school without hitting the stone pillars” and we're driving and just thought it was a blast, right? And it was, looking back, we could have gotten in some big trouble, you know? But we were thinking that was real funny and this is a part of growing up, is being stupid and silly, right? But sometimes that can turn dangerous, you know? You see that all the time on the news, people getting into car accidents. I heard one, I was listening to a podcast recently about kids playing tag with their cars.

[Sara]: Yes, yes.

[Kyle]: So, chasing each other through some back roads, trying to do tag. So, curfews hopefully that they can help limit that and so, the negative outcomes of that, sometimes I think kids feel like “maybe the parents don't care what I'm up to, you know? And that's why they don't give me a curfew. They're actually just happy I'm gone and out of the house”, right? So, that's another negative kind of thing. All right. But I want tom what we're always trying to do is expand our listeners perceptions of this stuff and you and I really want to move away from this kind of dichotomous thinking. What I mean by that is it's either have a curfew or don't have a curfew, okay? Is there a third option?

[Sara]: Good or bad?

[Kyle]: Yeah, exactly.

[Sara]: It's either this or that. But what did you just ask?

[Kyle]: Is there a third option to those? To either have a curfew or not have a curfew?

[Sara]: Well, I'm not sure where you're going with that, but I think of course there's other options. There's options of sometimes having a curfew and not and creating a curfew together and planning it out together.

[Kyle]: What if we didn't even call it a curfew? What if we didn't even call it? That's what I'm saying. Like, there's a third option. It doesn't have to be called a curfew, right?

[Sara]: Right, and there’s a lot of-- For me, I don't have much with the word curfew, but if in your history as a parent that word carries some weight or if your child feels like it carries some weight, even if it's just because of what their friends say about it, might be a good idea to not use the word curfew.

[Kyle]: And here's all, I'm just saying--

[Sara]: I honestly probably wouldn't think to use it because I didn’t-- You know.

[Kyle]: I agree, we didn’t have.

[Sara]: [Unintelligible] come from my--

[Kyle]: 100%. That's what I'm saying, we don't think to use it because we don’t-- But I also hear a lot from kids when you use that word, “what's your curfew? What's your curfew?”.

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: It's all in framed in this like “when do your parents make you come home?”

[Sara]: I know. “It’s imposed. Here you go, time to be home. Yeah, What's yours?”

[Kyle]: So, what I'm seeing from the kids that I'm helping is the kids aren't thinking it's their responsibility at all. Like, they think “it's my parents responsibility to make me come home” and then all of the conversation with their friends, they're all using that same word curfew and it's this word that implies “you must be controlled by your parents, you must be told to come home” and it implies you're missing out on all the fun stuff we're going to do for those kids who have later curfew. So, I'm hearing a lot of times the kids are pushing against the curfew, trying to make it later and later. They’re coming home--

[Sara]: Because it's automatically negative.

[Kyle]: And they’re coming home five minutes after curfew and it's causing all these big blobs. The parents are mad. Like, “we said curfew was this”. So, what I'm noticing is there needs to be a reframing of the point of that curfew and maybe it would help just to throw out the word, right? Because I know I don't have a curfew, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: I'm an adult. But yet, there is an expectation between you and me that I come home, right?

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: There's an expectation that I will communicate if I'm not home at a reasonable time that we have agreed upon, right?

[Sara]: Right, and there'd be some at least general idea of where you're going, when are you going to be back. Whenever we leave, either one of us goes somewhere, we have that communication understanding. So, otherwise you're left just wondering “what's happening?”.

[Kyle]: You'd be very concerned, right?

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.

[Kyle]: And especially if you couldn't get a hold of me. “Oh, my phone was dead. I'm sorry”.

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: I mean, this is a thing teenagers will say a lot. “My phone was dead. I ran out of battery” and the parents like “oh my gosh, here's an external charger. Here's all these ways to like--” or “I was tracking you on this” and there was all these discussions about how they were--

[Sara]: That’s what I was thinking of the app, all the apps that help manage curfew.

[Kyle]: Yes, and so, with us, there is this general expectation. I'm using us as an example because you're trying to raise your kids up to be able to be human beings, who know that other people care about them and want them home safely, right? And that they also want to be home safely.

[Sara]: Yes. So, you're saying this is something that they're doing now, but it's something they'll need to do their whole life.

[Kyle]: Yes.

[Sara]: In all the important relationships that they're in, there would be these kinds of conversations. It's really not just this moment in time where you need a curfew or a time to--

[Kyle]: Yeah, and I want them to know from the time we believe this conversation needs to happen, I don't know, 15, 16. Definitely when they're driving. I want them to believe it is their decision, it's not ours. It's not just a decision they're making independent of us, they're making the decision with us. But really, these few little years that you have, 15, 16, 17, 18, it's a chance to help build a skill because they're going to go to college and you're not going to be there to impose any type of curfew and I hope-- I think what every parent wants who's listening is they want their kid to go to college, and even when they're in college, be responsible and to be able to say “hey, I have class tomorrow, so I can't stay up really late tonight. I need to go home and go to bed”.

[Sara]: Yeah. If everything is being imposed on them and controlled now, then all of a sudden, they've never had the chance to practice driving that car. All of a sudden, it's just been handed to them because they turned 18 and went to college.

[Kyle]: So, they've never had practice on setting that boundary, right? So, that's one thing. They've never had practice. You know, one kid I was helping with, this kid's quite a leader, and this kid realized through our discussion that they thought they were going to miss out on all-- They had this FOMO thing, but if they would just say to their friends “hey, I told my parents I was going to be home by eleven and so, I know there's a lot of fun things we could do here, but actually there's a lot of fun stuff we can do at my house” and this kid was like, “I think my friends would actually just come back to my house”. That I think at night, there is this idea of just being away is the goal. Being out of the house, that's a part of being independent and growing up, and I think the conversation about curfew feeds into that story. They're like “oh no, you're not an adult yet, you still need to come home. Now, when you're 18, you can do what you want”. There's a lot of this kind of discussion.

[Sara]: Anytime you're being kind of imposed and forced to come back to a certain spot, it can feel a little confining to a teenager who's trying to get out and be independent.

[Kyle]: And even when I talk these kids lots of times, Sara, they actually do a lot of fun things to do at home. You know, many of them actually don't mind being around their parents. So, I want it to be a win/win for everybody. So, when I'm proposing to this kid “why don't you just tell the kids to come back to your place?” and “oh, yeah, my parents actually don't mind the kids coming over. My parents actually say they would like that”. But up until then, it didn't seem like a choice they could choose. It was almost like “oh, why can't I stay out longer?”; “Why don't you just bring your friends back?”; “Oh my gosh, mom!”. You know, there's this discussion back and forth as opposed to kid going “oh, yeah. Actually, I do like getting home by eleven because then they're not worried, they can go to sleep and actually, there's a lot of fun things I like doing with my friends at my house and we could just watch movies at home and actually, when we've done that in the past, it's always been really fun”.

[Kyle]: You know, some of these kids have cool things like swimming pools at their house and the kids just go back and go swimming, or they have-- You know, the parents are willing to buy some food for them or snacks, or they could play video games or watch-- There's all types of things they could do at home, but their mindset is when you grow up, all the fun things are outside of the home, even though they know they actually enjoy doing stuff at their house, you know? So, what I'm wanting to kind of expand is, if we move away from the idea of curfew and many people who are listening had curfews, curfews imposed upon them, is to think of this different way. This different way where you are co-creating how you want this nighttime dance to go, and what that looks like is sitting down with your kid and making it a win/win for you and for them.

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: It doesn't have to be a win/lose. Like, I don't want parents to be like “Oh, so you're telling me my kid should go out till two because that's--?”. No.

[Sara]: “Yeah, dad, my curfew is two”.

[Kyle]: “I’m not staying up till two! Oh my gosh, I want to get sleep!” and so, I think having that discussion with that, at least in our practice, when I'm working with kids, Sara, lots of them actually resonate with that, you know?

[Sara]: And kids actually-- You know, I think a lot of parents feel like “well, I need to tell them, you know? They have to be saved and they need their sleep and all these things”, but they actually know that. They're very aware of their schedule the next day and if you give them space for them to say what they need and why they need it, instead of coming at them saying “well, make sure that whatever you're planning, you're going to do this and this and this”, they actually hold a lot of that and know it. So, give them the space and room to come up with the reasons for why they need to be home--

[Kyle]: When our kids are in college--

[Sara]: And own that responsibility.

[Kyle]: I want our kids to do exactly that. To go “sleep is important. Being safe is important”. I want them to believe that not everything fun happens at night, you know? They can do other things. When they're out at night, they're less likely to be taken advantage of, to be hurt. There's all types of things. I don't want them scared of night, but I do want them to understand that for every human being, even for adults, that increases exponentially at night and that there is a lot of fun things you can do with your friends that actually are really safe at your house. So, I want them to go to college knowing that and then being able to prioritize that, rather than what I see happening is a lot of kids who have strict curfews, parents aren't co-creating it. The kid goes off and now the kid has bought into a lie, that being an adult is when you have no boundaries. “There's no boundaries on my time. I don't put boundaries on when I need to come home. I don't do that. Like, staying out as late as possible no matter what the consequences next day or the consequences that night. That's the goal and that's living. That's growing up”, even though we don't do that as adults. Like, you and I--

[Sara]: And probably most of us have at some point did stay out too late or stay up, and then you had to get up for work the next morning or get up for college class the next morning and you feel horrible and we know and so, we want to use this as an opportunity to practice some skills before you're just thrown into that mix.

[Kyle]: Well, and teaching that regulation. I remember those times even when you and I were first married, we would sometimes play video games together, because you're pretty awesome. We would play this game and we just couldn't seem to turn it off because we were trying to beat this game and we'd be up to like 03:00 a.m. and we still had to go to work the next day and it was through some trial and error of like, “you know what? This isn't important”. So, now we are very disciplined about when we stop entertaining ourselves.

[Sara]: Yeah, we'll even stop a movie in the middle. “We need our sleep we've got a big day tomorrow”

[Kyle]: And we're not going to binge shows because we know we need to go to sleep the next day and you want your kids to be able to do that. What I'm seeing is a lot of kids who don't-- They've never been invited into that discussion, you know? And so, I think at this age, when you're going into the 13, 14, 15, 16, that kind of age where these curfew discussions are happening, this is a moment for parents to back up, stop being the managers of their life, and start actually instead being a consultant, that helps them be able to see these as opportunities for growth and I wrote this down, Sara. It's an opportunity to learn how to co create with your kid. It's an opportunity for them to be a leader and guide how they spend time with their friends. It's an opportunity for them to practice putting boundaries on themselves. It's an opportunity for parents to move away from being a manager to a consultant. It's a chance to teach kids how to create boundaries for themselves and others. They can create a different type of relationship with their friends. It doesn't have to be us always fighting against “what our parents are asking us to do and what our parents want is so frustrating and annoying”. It's really-- You know, your kid could become a leader in that sense to say “hey, the fact that my parents want to go to bed, I think that's good. When they get good sleep and they're worried about me, they're much nicer people, you know? I don't want them to be scared. I don't want them to wait--” and learning to teach your kid, it's an opportunity for them to learn how to do win/win type interactions.

[Sara]: I love that part, where it's not just a handing over the reins. “Okay, kid, let me know when you're coming home”, but that co-creating and that win/win. What's going to work for you and work for me and letting the kid think about that, you know? So, “what's going to work for my parents and what's going to work for me? This is what I want., but how will that also--? I need to consider them as well”. Because in future relationships, even if it's workplace or something like that, that's how you need to think.

[Kyle]: Yes

[Sara]: “I want this and this, but they need this and this. So, how can we bring that together?”

[Kyle]: And I almost hesitate to use the word compromise in that discussion; that's why I like co-create better. Compromise almost sounds like a lose/lose. It sounds like we're both-- Neither one of us are happy about it and if we aren't, that means it's done correctly. I want it to be where we both are caring about what the other person wants and considering it as we create a better way that we both can, hand in hand do that, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, because both of our wants, our needs, our desires in the situation are valid. Even the teenagers wish to have fun with their friends is valid for their developmental stage and what's going on, and we know they need sleep and all that, but their desire is probably more for the fun, and what the parent needs and wants, and that's “I want you safe, I need my sleep”, both of those things can exist together.

[Kyle]: And once again, I would say it's no different than how you and I would deal with it as a couple, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: So, let's say even if I was to go out with some friends, there would be a discussion about what time would be appropriate to come home, right? And I would let you know if that was changing or that'd be later and there'd be this trust that I'm going to come home at that time and so, typically even then, you would still be kind of awake, you know? I would try not to make it too late, so that way then I'm not waking you up and you likewise with me, you know? There'd be this open discussion. That's what we're trying to model and then guide the kids into doing, because that's interdependent relationships, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: They're growing up. You're trying to move away from this codependent where we manage everything for you and the kid is and then moving there is this independent thing. But I think on this, I want to expand this conversation from being independent is just you doing whatever you want and us losing.

[Sara]: Yes, yes.

[Kyle]: Interdependent is let's win/win. Like, “I really do want you to have a fun time with your friends, but I also want you to be safe. I also want to be able to--” Actually, when you talk about that with the teenager, the teenagers I talk to actually want that too.

[Sara]: Right

[Kyle]: They don't want to be in danger. Now, in their mind, they may not perceive some of the same things as dangerous, but they're also open to the fact that you know something they don't and so, I hope today I just really have been experiencing this a lot and it's been really fun. I'm telling you, listeners, it's been really fun when teenagers are able to understand that this isn't just about now, but it's to help them be more successful in college later and in life later. Many of them do resonate with that and they're like “oh, that's true. I actually do need to practice this now” and this is the time to practice it with people who really love them and are looking out for them in ways that those people may not be there when they're in college, you know? There may not be that accountability there. So, I'm really wanting to help fine tune that skill and that communication while they're with us in our house, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah.

[Kyle]: So, I hope this helps expand your imagination of what this discussion about curfew could look like and if you want to throw that word out, feel free to do it. You don't need to use the word, but if that word helps you still keep it within this kind of discussion about what time they come home, continue using it. There's not bad or good to use the word, I just think a lot of time in our culture is a lot of energy around it. So, if you know some other parents who are struggling with this, I know that you probably know the teenagers who are pushing against curfew and saying “let me stay out longer!” and the parents like, “oh my gosh, how long is too long?” and there's like, this-- You know, those discussions are happening. Share this episode with them and hopefully, it'll help equip them to do something different.

[Sara]: Thanks for listening. We appreciate you all.

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