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What's a Fair Curfew for Teenagers?
Q: I have two teenage daughters (17 and almost 15). Now that school is in session I want them to finish their social activities by 6 p.m. during the week so they can spend the evening with us and doing their homework. They think I'm being very unfair because their friends get to stay out until 9 p.m. I don't know if I should compromise and allow them to stay out until 9 p.m. if their homework is finished. I'm afraid they will tell me they've finished it just so they can go out and their grades will suffer. I think they need to be home on school nights. Am I being too rigid? Should I lighten up and base my decisions on how well they're doing in school?
A: I think you should give them the responsibility and trust that being 15 and 17 should command. If they are fulfilling their expectations and duties as students and family members I think their requests should be granted. I don't think you should assume they'll lie about their homework and receive lower grades. Expect the best from them.
Part of raising self-disciplined, responsible kids is giving them opportunities to show you and themselves that they can assume more and more responsibility. If they fail to maintain a healthy school/social life balance, then they will receive an important lesson and can be given a chance to remedy the situation. State what your expectations are concerning their academic and family responsibilities. Then show your confidence in them by saying, "I'm sure you can handle this."
It's truly much more healthy for them to be able to spend more time with their peers at these ages than it is for them to feel forced to spend every night, all night, with their parents. You will know soon enough if this experiment is successful.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.