They say life is a series of growths. We’re always growing because we’re always learning. There’s probably no time in most people’s lives in which learning is a bigger part of their lives than adolescence. Teenagers are constantly being exposed to new information, and unlike when they were toddlers and children, they’re tasked with genuinely comprehending it and demonstrating that they’ve grasped the lesson. Curfew violation can be a learning lesson. Your teenager is likely rather glum over getting caught and there might be a great deal of bitterness and resentment involved as well. On the surface, it sounds like a hard thing to turn into a lesson on respect, but with the right tools for the trade, you can begin teaching as only a parent can.
Rules of Engagement
Rules, rules, rules. To most teenagers, it seems the world is built on rules. And really, they’re not wrong. “Too many rules,” you might hear them say. “What does curfew even matter? I wasn’t going to do anything wrong.” Maybe they weren’t, but the rule still stands, and so by disregarding it they already did something wrong. Of course, just telling them this and leaving it at that isn’t much of a learning experience. They’ll interpret it as unnecessary harshness and further desire freedom from the confines of cruel and unusual punishment. (Do I sound like a teenager yet? I think we’ve all heard this angsty rhetoric at one point in our lives, and we probably spoke it when we were 15, too.)
So how can we illustrate that these rules are put in place for a reason? By teaching our teenagers all the reasons they exist in the first place. Sit down with them over cookies and go over the reasons curfew exists. Explain its role in providing safety, and detail why we can never fully account for every bit of trouble we can run into when we’re out after-hours. Trust in your teen to put the pieces together and begin to respect the law.
Following the rules of society means being mature. A person simply cannot be deemed mature unless they express a willingness to follow the reasonable discourse of law. Have another talk with your teen, this time on the boons of maturity. It’s all about perception. People see us based on how we behave, and our behavior can get us into a lot of trouble. It can also grant us plenty of benefits. By adhering to curfew, others will respect a teenager for making smart choices. They’ll deem them intelligent and in good standing.
Maybe your teen will argue that “no one at school actually wants to be seen that way,” but hold your ground. Tell them that plenty of fellow students will respect them a great deal more this way, no matter how it may seem. The quieter kids are more likely to get ahead — more likely to commit themselves to getting into a good college and obtaining a degree and living fun and fruitful lives. Not because they’re quiet, but because they aren’t busy boasting about all the immature things they’ve been up to over the past few weeks.
The Hard Way
If all else fails, pull out the old “this is your brain on drugs” card, to borrow from an old 1980s ad campaign. You don’t necessarily need to turn the talk into one that’s literally about illicit substances, but you can get into the particulars of all sorts of things that come with a lack of teenage maturity by digging up pictures of folks who have made too many poor life decisions. Explain how it tends to track all the way back to adolescence and display a loving desire that your teen goes down a better path.