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What Happens to a Child Who Stays Out After Curfew?

by Brandy Burgess, studioD

Children need boundaries and one way to reinforce these boundaries is through establishing a curfew. A curfew defines how late children can stay outdoors in a public place unaccompanied by an adult according to rules set by parents or by established laws in the child’s specific city. Many children tend to rebel against necessary restrictions like curfew, often staying out past their designated curfew time to test limits. Discuss the importance of curfew and the consequences of breaking curfew with your children.


In many areas, parents must ensure that their children abide by curfew laws. When children break the law, parents may receive a hefty fine or even jail time. For a first offense, an officer may return the child to their home and issue a warning. In some cases, a police officer may pick up the child and bring him back to the police station where a parent must pick him up. Check the laws in your city regarding curfew and discuss the information you find with your child.


Children should also face consequences for breaking curfew rules set up by their parents. Consequences should be age-appropriate. For example, establishment of rules, grounding and withholding privileges may be sufficient consequences for both pre-teens and teenagers up to 16 years of age. Changing your child’s curfew to an earlier time can also be effective. For example, if your child tends to break his 11:00 p.m. curfew, roll back his curfew time to 10:30 p.m.


Children can experience structure by following curfew rules at a young age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Begin by talking to your child about what they consider a fair curfew time to be. Your child’s curfew should try to meet both his and your comfort levels and should ultimately depend on the situation. For example, curfew may be longer in situations where your child is staying at a friend’s house with a trusted adult. When your child breaks curfew, discuss the repercussions the next day and not in a late night heated argument.


Curfews are often more effective when expectations and consequences are clear from the start. Whether it’s getting his homework done before leaving the house or calling to check in every two hours, ensure that your child knows what you expect from him. Talk about various scenarios in which your child may break curfew unintentionally. For example, if your teen is stuck in traffic, tell him that you expect a phone call saying that he’ll be a little late. While your child may feel that a curfew as unreasonable, they sometimes do not realize how beneficial it is to their safety.

About the Author

Based in northern New York, Brandy Burgess has been writing on pets, technical documentation and health resources since 2007. She also writes on personal development for YourFreelanceWritingCareer.com. Burgess' work also has appeared on various online publications, including eHow.com. Burgess holds a Bachelor of Arts in computer information systems from DeVry University and her certified nurses aid certification.

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