What’s really the point of having a check-in time for kids? A writer and mom ponders the question.
by Michelle Icard
Conversations about curfew are rarely fun. If you have teenagers, you’ve probably exhausted this topic many times, disputing what’s reasonable, drawing lines in the sand, feeling frustration mount on all sides. Recently, I decided this approach wasn’t getting me anywhere. I needed a new angle on an old topic.
It would start with a simple question: What is the purpose of a curfew? To find the answer, I’d have to go deeper than “nothing good happens after X o’clock.” Then, surely, I could land on a more reasoned approach to this everyday (at least every weekend) parenting dilemma and put an end to a recurring debate in our house.
And since I was venturing into new territory, why not add the element of trying a new sport at the same time? Curling and curfews sounded like a perfect pairing to me.
I know — they aren’t exactly a natural combo. My editor wasn’t sure at first either. When Cathy approached me about my first in a series of monthly columns, I immediately pitched this one. “Just this weekend,” I said, “A group of friends went to the Charlotte Curling Association to learn how to curl. Anyway, we were talking about managing curfews … ”
“I’m confused — how did the subject of curfews come up with curling?” Cathy said.
“Oh, well I texted everyone beforehand that I wanted to talk about it, but in a philosophical kind of way. I just asked them to think about it ahead of time,” I said.
“Huh.” She processed. “So, is that what it’s like being friends with you?”
Yes! Yes, it is. I like to dive deep into the issues around raising young people, to question our approaches, to bat around the latest research, to try to see the forest and the trees. I also like trying fun new places and activities around the Queen City.
So that’s the plan. Each month, I’ll have a new conversation — aiming for locations as unique as the fireside lounge of an ice rink — then reflect on it here, hopefully prompting you to have meaty conversations of your own. Which brings me back to curfews.
Many parents, myself included, land on a curfew by plucking what feels like a reasonable hour out of the air. There may be some polling of other parents, but that’s probably where the research ends. If this sounds familiar, it might help to look at curfews through a wider lens, and then, you may realize you’ve defaulted to, and are defending, a stance that doesn’t serve your family well.
My curling-and-curfew conversation brought up a lot of questions that can inform the way you think about this topic in your home. Try exploring these the next time you’re with your pals: Why is there such a thing as curfew? Is it to keep my kid safe? Is it to put me at ease so I’m not up late worrying? Do kids make better choices before a certain time? Are those times arbitrary? How did my parents handle curfew, and would I agree now? Does a curfew teach kids it’s important to set and stick to limits? Does a flexible curfew foster self-regulation and good judgment more than strict rule following? Does a curfew give teens an easy out when they want to leave but feel pressure to stay? Is it legal to have no curfew at all? Are there ways a curfew can backfire?
At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie, it’s not the right answer you’re seeking, but clarity. In fact, there is no right answer. Believe me, if I knew the “right” curfew I’d tell you. The answer will be different for everyone. Whatever you decide, I hope this approach is helpful in finding what works best for your family.
Look for me here next month, to find out which topic I couldn’t resist dragging my friends, acquaintances, social-media contacts or unfortunate person behind me in line for coffee, into. SP
Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. She runs local programming for middle schoolers and their parents, including leadership camps and conferences for girls and their moms. Learn more about her work at MichelleintheMiddle.com.
Visit CharlotteCurling.com to learn more about this fun sport and facility.