The curfew: Why it’s important
This topic, while controversial, is one that parents and guardians still find merit in, despite the popular, modern trend to be more lenient rather than restrictive.
Curfews apply to children of all ages, and extend to teens and young adults still living at home. There are several reasons that a curfew is an effective and valid parenting tool. One of the more ‘selfish’ reasons a curfew can be considered is the fact that it allows parents to plan their lives better by applying times that suit them. Knowing that parents require their children home at a certain time will also enhance a child’s sensitivity to the needs of others, resulting in social courtesy. This courtesy makes for a far more manageable household. On a more serious note: a curfew helps to ensure the safety of young people. Often, it is not how their own children behave that worries parents, but rather how others behave.
Certain times of day/ night may be considered safer than others, so implementing a curfew could assist in keeping your young person in a safe environment during those more risky times. In addition to this, young people who are required to adhere to a curfew and leave at a certain time will often be able use the curfew as a reason not to engage in certain behaviours or go somewhere where they are not comfortable, and allows them to gracefully bow out of an unwanted situation, such as those where drinking, drug-taking, promiscuity and violence occur.
Although most teenagers would deny it, something they yearn for is structure and a level of discipline. To a young person, a complete lack of structure and discipline could equate to a lack of caring. It is a time in their lives when they are being bombarded from every side with new things to do and try and there is pressure from every sphere of their lives. Trying to balance school, sport, a social life and so on takes some doing. Parents can really assist if they put a curfew in place for the sake of the child’s busy schedule.
This allows the child to form good habits and take responsibility for his/ her schedule. Learning to work towards – and around – a curfew, and learning the importance of being on time is a vital skill so many of us have lost. Surprisingly, adherence to a curfew is so much more than a simple disciplinary step taken by parents.
Once a child becomes accustomed to it, he/ she will find that the same discipline applies to studying/ personal relationships and general work ethics. It is obviously important to ensure that the curfew is reasonable, manageable and indeed, that it is appropriate and valid. It is not to be used as part of an autocratic style of parenting, but rather as a tool that benefits all members of the family.
While the setting of a curfew is a powerful and meaningful tool to add to your arsenal as a parent, there are some limitations that need to be taken into consideration.
A curfew is not a means to wield power over a young person – it should rather be something that enhances a relationship of mutual trust. Simply setting a curfew will also not change poor behaviour miraculously either. It might curb some behaviours, but parenting is so much more complicated than just the issue of being home on time. Going back to the historical reason for curfews in society (that of ensuring safety and control), I think that if one can do anything to ensure the safety of our children in a world where that has become increasingly difficult, we should be doing it.
Article by: Clare Pretorius (Senior Deputy Principal at Trinity House, Randpark Ridge)