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Today's Child

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Personal Story: Curfew

There was never a 'curfew' in my house --reasonable time to be home, yes, but curfew --no.  
I must be 'nuts', you say? Perhaps.  But this is how our family worked, and it did work. The following scenario demonstrates how it was handled.

Kids: we are going to John's house tonight.
Me: what time do you plan to be home
Kids: 3 a.m. (they say with a smile)
Me: don't think so.. what time?
Kids: 1:00 a.m.
Me: ok... 1:00 it is.... and if plans change I expect a phone call.  And if you are not home, or haven't called by 1:30 I will know something is wrong (because 1/2 hour gives you lots of time to get to a phone if something happens) and I will be calling your friends, the police, and the hospitals.
Kids: Ok

has this interaction 

  1. Respect for them and respect for me
  2. Good limit setting
  3. What will happen if
  4. Trust (the IF was there in case something happened, not because I thought they wouldn't phone or be home on time)

And did it always work?
Mostly, but there were a few calls made by Mom, and a few "yah yah's" by the kids.  And how did I handle these?

Situation 1: (Daughter)

This one had me sweating... but it ended up on a very positive note.
She was seeing a young man who was heavily involved in a church group and their teen gatherings and prayer meetings.  And three weekends in a row for one reason or another (in the middle of a prayer at the time, forgot, didn't realize it was so late) she was not home by the 1/2 hour extra time given, and she had not phoned.  The first time she did phone, but it was over the 1/2 hour.  The second time, I tracked her down at the church and she apologized for not keeping track of the time.  The third time.... well this was the hard one.
The third time, I knew she would not be late.  The third time, I knew she would do everything in her power to not make me worry.  But the 1/2hour came and went, there was no answer at the church. I could not track her down. And I paced.  And I worried.  I knew in my mind that the next time I saw her, she would be injured, or worse.  
Then in she came -- 15 min. late-- again, not realizing what time it was.  Staying in control, I tried to make it a learning experience rather than punitive.  Here is part of the conversation, after we established what time it was: 

Me:  what I had been doing for the past 1/2 hour?
Daughter: worrying.  Sorry.
Me: that isn't fair and can't happen again.. What are we going to do about this?
Daughter: (after thinking for a moment) You can drive us next time.
Me: ok

and so, if she hadn't stopped seeing him after that, I would have been driving her and her boyfriend to and from the event (can you imagine a teenager setting that up???) Wow (I think now.. and I thought then.. WOW..) 

Some people have a really hard time with this story.. Many say that I was way too lenient in letting her get away with that disrespect and irresponsible behaviour.  But let's look at the options:
1. I forbid her to see this young man again.
2. I set a curfew and ground her.
How do you think she would have reacted to each of the these? Do you think it would have stopped her? How would my actions have affected our relationship? Would she have learned self-control, set good boundaries for herself? I think, personally, that both of the options above would have ended up with very negative results. 


Situation 2: (Son)

This was a hard lesson learned.. and a sad one... but makes a very effective tool for others. Be my guest to tell this story to your teens.

My son was very good at calling to let me know of changed plans, but there were times when we didn't really know where he was or when he was coming home.  We talked about respect, and about me worrying about him, etc. but on occasion, he still didn't call.  Then one day,  I said, "you know, it isn't just for your safety that we need to know where you are and when you are coming home.  What if something happened to one of us while you were out and we needed to contact you?"  His response at the time was "like that is going to happen".... oh the innocence and 'invinsibleness' of teens!  
But it did indeed happen.  His father died when our son was off to the movies with friends, but we didn't know where he was.  It took me a very long time to track him down. Yes, things happen!

Looking back, with 20-20 visions/insight, I would not change a thing in how we dealt with 'curfews' in our household.  But I do have to point out that this trust didn't just happen.  It was throughout their childhood years that we worked together at solving problems, that we built an understanding and respect for each other, and worked on making good decisions. Yes, they tested them, but that is all about growing up. It is how we handled the situations, that kept us close as a family, and me so very proud of them! 

When you trust and respect those close to you, you can handle anything that life tosses your way, and any consequences that occur due to your actions. 
You have the strength to make it through, to stay in control, to be on top of your world.

Personal Stories

This page is a personal story of how I guided self-discipline in my family. 
It is not here to tell you what to do but to demonstrate how effective self-discipline guidance can be.
Debbie Roswell c 2000

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copyright, 1999: Debbie Roswell