Eventually, you will no longer be able to just plunk your child in a crib and turn off the lights. When this time comes, you may want to establish a curfew to ensure a good night’s sleep. Or, maybe you want to establish a curfew for an older child, who has never had one. Either way, it’s best to make establishing a curfew as painless as possible.
For a Young Child
This method is for when your child has just grown out of being carried to bed whenever you want. By establishing good habits now, it will be easier for you later on.
- Decide on an appropriate curfew. This should take into account when your child gets sleepy, age, and how long they typically nap during the day. Younger children need more sleep than older children or adults. But each child will vary in how much sleep is needed and you need to take this into account when making your decision.
- This step should not involve your child.
- Tell your child about the curfew. Explain what he/she will have to do prior to that time––for example, get pajamas on; take a bath; brush teeth. Explain that if he/she is not ready to be in bed at the appointed time, there will be consequences.
- Make the consequences clear to your child. Some examples could be:
- You will have to go to bed 15 minutes earlier tomorrow.
- You will not get dessert tomorrow.
- You could also explain “conditional consequences” such as, if you were late because you were playing with Thomas the Tank Engine, you won’t be able to play with Thomas the Tank Engine during the hour before you are supposed to be in bed.
- Help your child get to bed on time. At this age, children likely won’t be able to bathe themselves or brush their own teeth without supervision. Just gently suggest that they should go take a bath, and remind them of the curfew.
- Make sure that you or another responsible person are always available to supervise the child’s pre-bed activities. If this part slips, the child will not take the curfew seriously because it will seem you’re not doing so either.
For Older Children
- Decide on an appropriate curfew. This should take into account when your child gets tired, age, and what time they wake up in the morning.
- Depending on the maturity level of your child, you may want to involve him/her in making this decision. Remember that a child is more likely to respect a decision in which he or she has taken a part.
- Tell your child about the curfew. Explain what he/she will have to do prior to that time––for example, get pajamas on; finish homework; brush teeth. Explain that if he/she is not ready to be in bed at the appointed time, there will be consequences.
- Alternatively, for older teenagers, you may want to make curfew the time they must be home by. If you choose to do that, you may want to also make a time by which they must be in bed and that they also must be quiet and respect the other householders’ need for sleep/quiet time.
- Explain what the consequences will be. You may wish to say that you will decide on appropriate consequences when the time comes. However, having consequences clearly spelled out in advance creates a sense of consistency and fairness, rather than giving out arbitrary consequences that the child may feel are out of proportion to the broken curfew instance.
- Explain what he/she will need to do in order to get an extension of a curfew. As the child gets older, it is reasonable to expect that not every night will be the same bedtime. Extensions might be given in such circumstances as:
- When asked for, a day or two in advance, for a specific reason.
- By calling and explaining why you will be late.
- For a permanent extension, they should prove that they are not tired during the day, and have no problem getting up. By this stage, it is best to shift responsibility for meeting deadlines, getting somewhere on time, etc., onto the child.
- Help your child get to bed by the appointed time. Younger children may need a reminder about the time, especially in the beginning. However, even older children can do with being reminded of the time, especially when deeply involved in something they’re enjoying.
- Sometimes, you may wish to go to bed before an older teenage child. In this case, ask them to turn off the lights and be certain the doors, etc., are all locked. Inform them that you’re going to bed for the night and that you expect them to be in bed by their curfew.
- If you notice your child is having a hard time meeting the curfew due to a large amount of homework, this may be a sign that the curfew should be moved later, at least temporarily.
- Make the consequences suitable for the age of your child.
- If your child asks for an extension prior to the day they want one, consider granting one. It will make the child accept the curfew better, even if they do not like it.
- As your child gets older, the curfew should get later.
- Give your child a little bit of leeway. Going to bed two minutes late should not cause dramatic consequences, and if an older child got home late because of torrential downpours that caused major traffic, this should not be a problem for you.
- Explanations about consequences for older children are best focused on tiredness and how it spoils opportunities to do things that require focus and energy. For example, by explaining that a decision to stay up late the night before means a child is too tired to enjoy an outing today, the child quickly learns the benefits of getting enough sleep to have plenty of energy for the day’s events.
Edit Related wikiHows
- How to Establish a Curfew for College Students Living at Home
- How to Convince Your Parents to Give You a Later Curfew
- How to Not Get into Trouble When You’re Late for Curfew
- How to Get Your Parents to Realize You Are a Teen Now
- How to Convince Your Parents to Lighten Up