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Rules for Teens: Independence vs. Limits

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Rules for Teens: Independence vs. Limits


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Am I too strict?

Nov 2012

I have a 16 year old son with ADHD. House rules are midnight curfew on weekend nights, and 1 am if going to a party where we have the name and address of the party-giver. One overnight per weekend, and as above, we have to know name and address of where the sleepover is, unless we already know the parents. He has to let us know by 10:30 pm what his plans for the evening are.

He says we are the strictest, meanest parents, and that NO ONE else has these rules. Usually I take this as a compliment, but I thought I would check with other readers of the BPN. I should probably say he has some friends that we are not crazy about, if that makes a difference. Too strict? Wondering mom


Your rules seem reasonable to me, but the weekend curfews seem on the early side. Our daughter is almost 15 and we evaluate on a case-by-case basis, but we are rapidly moving towards a curfew. 1am on weekend nights seems more realistic/reasonable, with 2am if attending an organized event (party, concert, etc).

Another suggestion is to encourage him to host his friends at your house, with no curfew imposed on your part. You may discover the friends aren't as bad as you thought. Even if you don't develop a liking for them, though, you'll be able to keep an eye on everyone to make sure they don't get into trouble, and you'll likely learn by what rules everyone else must abide. Not Strict


Of course you are not too strict ! Think of the alternative: you could let your kid know that you don't care where they are going, when they come back, who they are with, and what they are doing. That could lead to a call from the cops or the hospital. Especially with an ADHD person who can get carried away w the moment, being a pain in the butt is necessary. You are telling them that you care enough to be involved in their life [sic]. Parent, not Friend.
We don't think you are too strict. We ended sleepovers when they moved onto middle school. They are too disruptive for the kids and the family who is hosting.

Nothing good can happen during a sleepover, just bad behavior even if it is just not getting enough sleep. Staying up until midnight or 1 AM is also not a good idea because it interferes with good sleep habits. Our curfew is 11 PM.

We tell our kids, if you want a sleepover with your friends, we'll arrange a camping trip and they can stay in the same tent. -parent of teens


Short answer: no. You are not being too strict. I am speaking from the experience of a mom who has a very sweet teenager who has gotten into some pretty significant and dangerous situations when he swerved from my rules, which are the same as yours. Let me give you an example. Rule: always know the name and contact info for parents of a party-giver, and speak to the parents of party-giver before the party. On one occasion my son (at age 14) broke this rule. He was supposed to be at a nearby girl's house. Instead, this girl's mother drove the girl and her friends (including my son) to a condo eight miles away and dropped them there, without ascertaining where they would be, precisely, or with whom. It turns out that a kid there was calling everyone he knew (and they called everyone they knew) to come to a party in a vacant condo. A horde of older teenagers brought booze, which my son (who had never tasted hard liquor) drank to extreme excess. He jumped into a pool with his iPod and phone in his pocket. He was blind drunk, and his ''friends'' left him vomiting and alone in an upstairs bedroom in the empty condo. When the girl's mother came to pick them up, the girl said that he was going to have a ''sleepover'' with someone and didn't need a ride. Meanwhile, because his phone was dead, I was in total panic mode. I had to go over to the girl's house and force the mother and girls to ride with me back to the condo development, because supposedly they didn't know the address or the name of the party-giver. I don't think I have ever been more furious or scared. My son had to go to the emergency room. Without exaggerating, I can say that he could have died in this incident. OK, he exhibited bad judgment. But whose judgment is totally reliable at 14? I would have thought that another parent would understand that you don't drive someone's kid off to a party without making sure that the parent is informed and making sure who is giving the party and that it's OK. But your son is right, not everyone has those rules. And they should. I would not have allowed my son to go to a party at the house of someone he did not know. So please do stick to your guns. It is a source of bewilderment and annoyance to me that some other parents don't check up on things like sleepovers and parties, but I let that be their problem -- I am checking. Twice. stricter than some
First: what your son says to you is the lament of EVERY teenaged child, girl or boy. We're ALL the meanest, strictest, rottenest parent out there. And second, you are not too strict at all. I've had the same - exact same - conversation with my daughter. One thing to keep in mind, is that plans really do change, and it's likely that something laid down at 10:30 will change half a dozen times before 1:00 am. But as I explained to my daughter: I don't want you wandering around Berkeley until all hours of the morning, and I don't want you spending the night in a house where there is no adult. End of story. She's a good kid, and knows that things can (and have, she's seen them) go wrong, and in the end she accepts the way I feel. And even though I checked with her friends' parents and verified that their rules are basically the same as mine, I'm sure I haven't heard ''NO ON ELSE has to be home at 1:00, mom, NO ONE!!!'' Good luck!
NO. Not too strict!! I can't imagine what the alternative would be - live how he likes? Don't check in? Hang out without you knowing what's going on? He's only 16 and clearly operating with the self-centered teenage brain. Sit down and calmly ask him to imagine the WORST case scenario - and ask him what he would do and what he would hope you would do. It should be obvious then why you have rules and structure. Whether it's a power outage, an earthquake, a medical emergency for anyone in the family, a kidnapping, a shooting, a killer on the loose or a combination of all of the aforementioned, you ALL have to know where everyone is. Simple as that. It's not a power trip, being strict or whatever. It's called COMMON SENSE. Just Another Mom
I think you are perfectly reasonable. I have similar rules for my teen. Living in your house, your rules. Good Luck! East Bay Mom
No, you are not too strict. You are a caring, loving, responsible parent. Your son may not appreciate how you are raising him now but he will once he matures and he will mature. Keep it up Mom!!! Nancy
These rules are very similar to rules we have used in our house and my daughter also complained that we were the strict parents, which I told her was irrelevant. Other people are allowed to parent their kids how they want, but like every other parenting decision, you do what feels right to you. If you want to know where your kid is going, you get to ask. The fact that other parents don't want or need to know does not matter! --Another strict mom
You are not too strict at all. That sounds like a really good set of rules. I have/had 3 teenagers and that is similar to what I did. There is no reason to be out past 12 midnight unless getting in trouble and parties shouldn't be going past 1. You definitely need to know where the party is and the parents need to be home so I would call them and make sure they are planing on being there. Parent of 3 teens
Gosh you do not seem too strict. Good to know location of party. 1 am seems fine. Sleepovers allow later time with friends. Seems fine. You are not the strictest. Some allow no sleepovers or in by 11 pm no matter what. Some parents dont care at all or dont check up and some of those kids are without anchors. If he does tend to sleep enough ar a sleepover you cpuld let him negotiate for 2 a weekend if all homework is done ahead of time. Encouraging strenghtening of negotiation skills is a good thing. Party On .... Within limits
Dear Wondering Mom - I also am parenting a 16 year old boy with AD/HD and I also am the meanest, strictest mom in town (according to my son). During times when we have relaxed the rules, we have usually come to regret it. Most teenagers have issues with impulse control and these are often magnified in kids with AD/HD. I in fact have spoken to other parents who said ''No sleepovers'' period. Too many instances of kids sneaking out in the middle of the night, and they always choose to go to the houses with the most gullible parents. We let our son sleep over mostly with relatives (cousins) as long as we can verify that there is an adult present. Also too many instances I know of with kids who both claim to be sleeping at the others house while they are both out all night. I actually call and check in the other parents fairly often, which my son says is mortifying. My son also has midnight curfew on the weekend, eleven if he is driving. But at least I can sleep and he knows there is enough monitoring that he thinks twice about the consequences of getting caught breaking the rules. An ounce of prevention, some reasonable rules may save your child from a lot of grief or from getting himself in a dangerous situation. Hang in there comadre! Us mean moms need to stick together. Someday they will grow up and understand that the rules were to protect them and a reflection of your enduring love for these annoying teenagers. The meanest mom in town
I'm a parent of a 16 year old girl, and your rules seem very permissive to me. We expect her home by 10 or 11 unless we've previously arranged something special, and we talk before she goes out about what the plan will be (on Friday night we might do that over the phone.) She goes to sleepovers once in a while, but I would certainly expect to meet the parents first.

I think your son is either moving with a very fast crowd, or is using the ''other people's parents let them'' argument.

On the other hand in two years, our children will be on their own, so ideally we're helping them develop some self-regulating skills so when they head off to college, they can handle all the new possibilities. We do talk about the effect of staying up late on how my daughter feels the next day, and on whether she has the concentration to get her homework done. anon


I will be so curious to see the responses! Mine is, do not buy that! He is putting you on. It reminds me of when my son was 11 and he assured me that EVERYONE had a phone. Needless to say, I knew the mom's on his soccer team and maybe 30% had phones (probably way higher these days). My sons are 15 and 16 and my rules are very similar to yours and we are not considered strict at all in our community (Albany). Actually I'd say they have to tell me their plans by 9pm, because I am early to bed myself. I wouldn't go for sleepovers every weekend, maybe a couple of times a month. That hasn't come up for us, but they are so dead the next day. Also - in our house, all homework for the weekend must be completed Friday afternoons BEFORE going out (I know - that is definitely on the strict end). I do think you'll find we (you and me) are considered lax compared to lots of parents of daughters, who seem to worry a bit more - reasonably so! in the same boat
To am I too strict?. I say no. I let my daughter know that I will call the parents of said sleep overs from time to time to make sure she is where she says she is, even if I know them. My daughter is a good kid with lot's of friends, but not an angel. She is 16 now and It was a bigger deal to her before when she was trying to be secretive. She knows it's just part of the program and how we work as a family. They will try to guilt you into questioning yourself. You sound fair. Jane
In response to ''wondering mom,'' I'm a psychotherapist in private practice, parent and the author of The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies that Work with Your Teenager.

First, no two teens are the same, and ESPECIALLY no two teens with ADHD. You don't say whether your son has ADHD Inattentive, Combined or Hyperactive subtype. Teens who are more hyperactive/impulsive are often more risk-taking (meaning that they more readily seek out novel experience, get bored with the status quo and are more able and willing to argue with parents and externalize blame). They find negotiation difficult; a sense of unfairness predominates. ADHD is also a highly comorbid condition (appearing with anxiety, depression or a learning difficulty); these diagnoses can often exacerbate other behaviors and moods during adolescence.

Your guidelines are very fair, clear and reasonable. Many other families have exactly these kinds of limits/boundaries. However, I think that ''Am I too strict?'' is the wrong question. I think a more productive question is, ''What is the best approach for my son and me, right now, given his biology and biography?''

Which strategy is likely to minimize unproductive conflict, but keep him safe and growing his capacity to respond to these kinds of challenging situations? How do I strategize around limit-setting, given his biology (all his diagnoses, his temperament, his executive functioning capabilities at this point in time, his current state of health, etc.) and his biography (his past history with risk-taking, our ability to negotiate solutions as a family, etc.)? You’ll need to think about how much should negotiate limits and whether to consider extending the rules a bit and seeing how he does, allowing him to earn broader freedoms.

For example, If your son is a high risk-taker with a history of accidents, you know you have to keep some firm limits in place, regardless of his opinion. Does he rail at your limits, but then pretty much follow them, with occasional violations? If so, you're doing fine. Teens argue. But if he's on the highly defiant side, ''upping the ante'' when you (calmly) enforce the limits you've arrived at, you might want to trade his CALM reasoning and negotiating with you for a relaxation of limits. This reinforces good executive functioning, teaching him to rationally ''make his case'' about changing the limits by insisting that yelling at you about strictness is just not a winning technique in your household. Michael


To "Am I too Strict" -- No, I think your rules are reasonable and hopefully when your son matures he will look back and know that he had wise parents with a backbone, who loved him very much. My son is a little younger and I hope that when the times comes that my husband and I will handle the push back with grace and not compromise our son's safety by giving in to the pressure he no doubt will exert on us. I see it coming and it's not too far off. My parents were not very strict with me and they should have been because I made a number of bad choices when I was a teen that had some dire consequences. My parents loved me, but they were too trusting and very naive about the potential I had for lying and making bad choices. I had a strict midnight weekend curfew when I was a teen, but that only applied when I was spending the night at home. Many times I told them I was staying at my friend's house. They never thought to check to see if I was really there; most times I was not. When I was 14, I asked, and they let me babysit and stay overnight at someone's house they had just met that day. When the people came home that evening a wild party ensued, which I thought was so cool. Let's just say it was not a good outcome for me. I went through a time when I was angry with my parents for not being smarter about people and for not protecting me at a time in my life when I was a blossoming young woman, but still innocent in so many ways. I was a very fun loving, free-spirited, trusting teen and my parents didn't know to protect me from people who would take advantage of this. On a positive note, I am still free-spirited and fun-loving. However, my son will not be going to anyone's house for a party if I don't first meet the parents, and he definitely will not be sleeping over anyone's house unless I actually know the people enough to be able to judge that he will be safe. This seems like simple common sense to me. I wish you luck with your son. Common sense parent
Seems like most parents are on the same page with you. One more thing: When plans changed at the last minute, I found it useful to frame my reaction in terms of what was good for my teen's safety. This helped boundaries seem less like an arbitrary line drawn by me, but (more or less) reasonable and practical. Hang in there!

Guidelines for 16 yr. old daughter

Jan 2006

Our daughter is 16 is spending a lot of her free time ''kicking it'' with friends from school and others who I know are not in school any more on Shattuck/Telegraph and at people's homes in Berkeley. We live near but not in Berkeley. She takes bart and bus back a forth a lot at gets rides from us and from friends. She thinks she should be able to go out and do what she wants with whomever she wants as long as she checks in by phone periodically and gets home at the appointed curfew time. She's a pretty level headed person and has been responsible about curfews.

We have had many arguments about this. I'd like the address where she is and a parent's name and phone no. I don't want her at people's homes if the parent is not there. I want to at least meet her friends.I want some verification of where she is but that's really hard. She can say whatever she wants about where she is. She has already been caught lying about who she's with but she says it's because she knows I won't approve.

I know that there is no way to follow them around. But are there some common sense guidelines others have used to keep their kid accountable? There are also issues of wanting to date much older guys because she finds high school guys so immature. This has been really challenging. We are on the verge of cutting back many of her privileges such as Internet connection if she won't cut off a relationship she has going now with an older guy we haven't met...HELP!! anonymous


This is such tough stuff to deal with! I really believe that parents should know who kids are hanging out with (including that radical concept, the ''last name''...), as well as their parents, their address. It is so much harder to institute these sorts of requirements AFTER a kid has been allowed to roam without providing specific information. My philosophy is that kids EARN the chance to have more freedom, by showing that they can responsibly handle what they already have. Part of this is participating in discussions with their own parents about how they evaluate who is good to hang with, which parents are crazy, which households are safe, and what they would do if a situation felt unsafe or got out of hand (and by the way, which situations are we talking about?). Whenever I see my own daughter make a wise decision about not getting into something that her friends thought was a fabulous thing to try, I react by giving her more chances to demonstrate this type of maturity. It becomes very tricky encouraging your kid to talk to you, because if they do, you then hear some hair-raising news about what is really going within their peer group and you have to decide whether to tell that kid's parents, forbid your kid to associate with them, etc etc! - and possibly lose your own kid's willingness to divulge worrisome stuff to you. I have let my kid tell me things anonomously about others so that she doesn't have to worry if I'll tell someone, just so that she can discuss difficult issues with me. While this contains its own problems, it seems to have helped my daughter confide in me and use me as a place to air her dilemmas and fears. I don't know how easily you can go back and institute some limits, but it seems to me that the biggest worry is the older guys. One of my daughter's friends got raped by one of those ''older guys'', as he happened to be a non-registered pedophile, and the kids were doing things like sneaking out from a supposed sleepover to see him after the mother had fallen asleep. A sixteen year old, no matter how mature, just doesn't have the judgement to know which situations are good for her, and I think you have every right to intervene. I wish you luck. When you feel all alone in this, please remember that there are lots of us keeping you company! Sincerely, Mom of a 16 year old too
She is still a child and you are in charge. This sounds very familiar to me. When I was her age, I felt the same way and my parents gave me a lot of freedom and trust. I got in a lot of trouble and was in many very dangerous situations many times. Looking back on it now, I think I was intimidating to my parents. I was very determined and always gave a strong argument. They wanted to trust me. I wish that they would have protected me and not allowed me to do the things I did. I didn't feel that I could go to them when I got into trouble or found myself in dangerous situations. Protect her. She should be asking for permission not telling you where and what she is doing. I am beginning to deal with this myself as the mother of two daughters, one is 14 now and dying for her independence, just like I was at her age.

15-y-o daughters say we are too strict

Nov 2004

Both my 15 1/2 year old girls feel we are too strict. We make them come home before dark on weekdays and by 7pm on weekends. Of course, on weekends, there is always an exception, like if they have a party to go to (w/ adult supervision), they want to go to a movie (as long as we pick them up), they are at a friends house (w/ an adult present), etc. Since it gets dark much earlier now they are really upset and feel we're just trying to ruin their social lives. They want to hang out on Shattuck Ave with their friends at night. They think our concern about them being out after dark.. just hanging is unreasonable. Does anyone go through this with their 15 year olds? Do you let your kids go to parties w/o parental supervision, hanging out on Shattuck at night? Our kids report that 'everyone of their friends have more freedom than they do.'


I think you're being wise, not ''strict.''

Most importantly, Berkeley is not a safe city, though we tend to think that it is. Girls here are vulnerable to mugging, assault and rape. The consequences of any of these things to your daugher and to you as parents would be awful. The psychological scars last for years, if not a lifetime, even if no physical injury results -- and it easily can. I've known girls who lost the opportunity to have children as a consequence. So saying, ''Be home before dark,'' is perfectly reasonable, especially for girls as young as yours. It isn't as if you are locking them in the house -- you let them go to movies with friends in the evening, for example.

Next, I personally don't think the Shattuck Avenue scene at night is particularly wholesome, and I wouldn't want my children to spend time in it. That's a judgment call, of course, but our role as parents is to make those calls. Our friends with girls of similar age enforce rules like yours -- and although we have boys rather than girls, we do likewise.

Third, I think you're absolutely right to forbid attending unsupervised parties. I don't know how familiar you are with the Berkeley scene, but it is well-known that unsupervised teen parties can, and frequently do, get WAY out of hand. (I think there have been prior discussions about that on this forum.) Word of such parties gets around with unbelievable speed, not just among the kids in your teens' social set but throughout Berkeley, Oakland, and surrounding towns. Parties are crashed by complete strangers -- often older than and outnumbering the invited guests. As a rule, teen hosts can't control that alone and are readily intimidated if they try. Moreover, alcohol abuse at unsupervised parties is a major problem -- and even if you trust that the party will be alcohol-free, the party-crashers will bring their own.

I've seen all this happen, more than once, to a perfectly nice girl who lives next door to us. Twice, the BPD had to restore order at around 2:00 a.m., and it didn't just involve a polite visit to the front door. If you need further persuasion, call your local BPD Community Relations officer or ask your beat cop what they think. This has been a big enough problem that the BPD keeps a list of problem houses and enforces a ''three-strikes-and-you're- out'' policy. 'Nuff said.

Finally, a suggestion (pardon me if you've already done this). Have a talk with your girls and explain the reasons and concerns that lie behind your restrictions. Also, try talking to the parents of some of their friends and find out whether they are truly as lax as your girls think. Last, in the end stick to what you believe is right -- your girls will thank you when they're older.

Best of luck to all of you! Tim


My oldest daughter is a year younger than yours. I, too, have been very strict about not letting her go to a friend's house without adult supervision, although we make an exception at the homes of her two closest friends, when it's pre-arranged. I would also not be happy about my daughter hanging out on Shattuck Avenue, or anyplace else for that matter, after dark. However, ''hanging out'' is unfortunately what kids this age really want to do. I would certainly prefer my daughter was hanging out on Shattuck Avenue than in the home of a friend whose parents aren't home. I've set my daughter's constraints a bit differently than you have. She absolutely must tell us where she is at all times. She may not go to a home where there are no parents home (except in the case I mentioned previously) and her independence beyond those constraints is completely dependent on how trustworthy she's been. Fortunately, until now, she's been very trustworthy, so we've allowed her some freedom, including staying out past dark occasionally. If she were to stop getting her homework done, get into some sort of trouble or break one of the rules about going to other people's houses or letting us know where she is (this last one has been a problem a couple of times), we say ''no'' the next time she asks for that freedom. She has to earn it back. I think that's worked pretty well so far, but I understand that your daughters are a whole year ahead of ours, so maybe by next year I will have given up on this technique and be looking for new ones myself! Mother of a teen daughter
No, you are not being too strict. You are exercising good parental judgment. It's perfectly reasonable to make a rule that your 15 year old daughters can't ''just hang out'' on the street at night. If they need to hang out, they can do it on Saturday afternoon, or in the evening at a friend's house if a parent is home. Your instincts are good, and it's your daughters' job to push/test the limits, so don't worry. You are correctly protecting them from a situation that can turn dangerous way too easily -- they're too young and inexperienced to recognize risks, but you are cognizant because you are the adult!! You are making a good decision, and your good judgment will tell you when and if it's time to change the rules. That's why we're the parents
It might not help, but you can let your daughter know that you are not the only parent with such ''rules''. My 15-y.o. complains, too, but no - she may not attend parties without a parent there, and I insist on the address and phone number of the house. I call the parents beforehand, to double check they'll be there - though I realize that's not a guarantee of trouble-free parties. She can go to a friend's house without an adult after school, but if it's evening, or there will be lots of kids there (in my mind, that's a party), I have to check anon
In your query you mentioned that you have 15 1/2 year old girls. I also have a 15 1/2 year old daughter and in addition have an 18 1/ 2 year old daughter, so I've ''been there, done that'' and am doing it again. Neither of my daughters is/was allowed to go to parties without parents present. Neither of my daughters is/was allowed out at night ''hanging out'' on the street. My kids go places with friends, but I need to know the destination (obviously I'm talking about at the age of 15, not 18), and enough other information so that I feel comfortable that they are safe. One thing to consider is that in less than a year, these 15 1/2 year olds will be able to drive. At that point your sphere of influence/control changes. It's wise to help them learn to make good choices before they're off alone in a vehicle. In fact, for me that was the one downside of the new driving regulations requiring them to carry no peer passengers for 6 months after getting their license. My daughter would go off to the movies after dark, and I knew that she'd have to park and walk alone to the theater. I felt much safer when I knew she was in a group (as long as the group was like-minded friends!). My older daughter used to complain that she had less freedom than many of her friends. Now she thanks me! Good luck--I think the struggles we have with our adolescents are what eventually makes it possible for us to let them go. If it was too easy, we'd never let them leave! Another overprotective parent
I was surprised to see that all the previous posts to this query supported a curfew of dusk on weeknights and 7 pm on weekends for 15-1/2 year old girls. I would like to advocate for some constructive flexibility on this issue.

My view is that if 15 year old girls are asking for more independence, you may be making a mistake not to search for suitable channels for their wishes. If you restrict their independence too much, there may be unwanted consequences soon to follow, or difficulty down the line, when they taste greater independence in college, away from your supervision.

Perhaps you can help them to find suitable outlets for their desire to be out on the town, away from you, after dark -- ones that won't make you too anxious, but will still have the flavor of adventure for them. I totally agree that hanging out on Shattuck or Telegraph Avenues is not a good idea, no matter what they say their friends are doing.

Here are a few ideas that might help you get started. I hope some of them will spark an interest in your teen(s). I hope they will forgive me if some seem ''square'':

-Rock climbing at Ironworks gym (open till 10) on many
nights.
-Visiting SF MoMA, open till 9 on Thursdays, and near
BART, IN THE CITY !!!! Free at least once a month.
-Evening classes at Cal Extension or Vista.
-School dances.
-Teen nights at the YMCA.
-Disco Bowling in Albany.
-Punk rock concerts at I-Musicast, at 51st Street in
Oakland (Parent supervised, no drugs or alcohol, over at
11:30).
-Events at Ashkenaz (there are some teen rock band nights).
-Berkeley Rep ($$$).
-Eating at a restaurant, or hanging out at an Internet
cafe.
-Hanging out at a bookstore... is there an interesting
reading at Black Oaks?
-Evening events at Cafe Eclectia (I don't know their
schedule, so this one may not exist, really...though there
is another teen club on Solano, somewhere).
-Friday night ice skating at the Berkeley rink.
-Punk rock at the Gilman (the fuzz are all over this one,
so illegal activities are scarce, while the hair is wild).
-the teen ski bus to Tahoe (around 5 am till 9 pm, and
about $ 75 a shot).
If you poke around, you can probably find more good ideas, on your own or from other members of this list. Mimi

What limits do you put on your teen?

Re Positive Reinforcement and Limits: to the second query, I apologize for sounding off because I didn't really answer her question--"What limits have you placed on your kids?" Indeed, there must be limits, and consideration always comes up as a necessity to teach my child. She must consider, in order,

(1) an absolute: homework, during the school year, comes first (no calls unless strictly related to homework);

(2) with just one phone and one phone line, the need for others to use the phone;

(3) time limits (on school nights, no calls after 9 or10 pm; weekends no calls, received or going out, after 11 pm or midnight (note, as my daughter got older, I moved the times to later);

(4) she must always call me and let me know what she plans on doing before she does it, and when and how she'll get home, or if I can pick her up (I always preferred picking her up so I would know where she last was), and I gave my daughter my phone card account no.--she memorized it fast. Be very specific about what you expect and get specific info from her. This #4 caused the most problems with my daughter, miscommunication between us and becoming a freshman made her wild. Ask her for a phone list of friends--my daughter provided me one when I told her it would make me feel more secure about her safety.

These are absolutes now at 16. I bargain and have adjusted these absolutes as she has gotten older (flexibility without being permissive is the fine line to walk). Don't give in too much, but don't make her feel she has to rebel at this age; be reasonable, don't set a lot of rules but the ones you set, rule with an iron will. --jahlee (6/99)


Afterschool and weekend freedom for 14-16 year olds

Oct 2000

One of the new parents wrote, "I am interested to meet other parents who believe T.V. is harmful for children and would like to do other more creative activities with teenagers." I don't feel quite that strongly about TV, but our 9th grader hardly ever watches it (at home at least) any more because of two rules: no TV or computer games until homework is done, and no visiting with friends after dinner on school nights. On the other hand, he's doing more "hanging out" with friends after school and on weekends lately, and expecting to be given lots of freedom. Friday night three of them wanted to go to a party at a friend of a friend of a friend's house, didn't know the last name or the phone number, wanted to be picked up after midnight, etc. After another mom and I said she would have to meet the host parents when dropping the boys off, they decided not to go. But they casually announced they were "going out" (on foot) and disappeared for a couple of hours, not responding to their pagers. I'm curious about how long or short a leash other parents give their kids (ages 14-16 or so) on weekends. They act so resentful and claim to be so embarrassed in front of their friends when we say no "R" movies and no visiting houses with parents not home. My son insists we should trust him more because he hasn't "gotten into trouble" yet (conveniently forgetting two close calls when his bike almost got stolen), that he's not interested in drugs, etc. And I remember my own parents overreacting to what they perceived as the dangers of my own hanging out with friends. Suggestions anyone?

I do wish there were more creative/constructive options for local teens' free time. One alternate activity I've wondered about is the kind of Friday night social dance classes we had when I was in 7th-8th grade. Is anything like that offered around here these days? I read something last year about the club at 8th and Gilman being a place teens could go and dance, but the people we've seen lined up outside it looked a little scary (and our son hasn't yet suggested it). My son said he would join the Y and go work out there after school, but now he "doesn't feel like it." He's in a private school with no after-school activities. Should we ease up on the computer rule so at least he'll stay home more of the time? Anonymous


I think all parents should feel comfortable demanding that their children tell them where they are going, when will they return, what is the telephone number, and most important, call home when plans change. After one year (about the sophomore year) and some big scenes at our house, my daughter got better and better with the rules. By the senior year she was quite conscientious about letting me know where, when, and a telephone #. I was very consistent with my demands. And even when I was tired or whatever, I hung in there demanding the information I needed in order to be comfortable. Miriam
hanging out afterschool ... Both my kids felt they should be allowed much more freedom once they were in high school. To some extent, they have been allowed it. By 9th grade, they could get around on their own, and they had activities they wanted to do with friends, like playing basketball and skateboarding. I think socializing is as important as homework, so it is OK with me, as long as they are home by 6, but they have to tell me where they are going to be, or leave a message if there are last-minute plans. It has taken some work to drive this point home but usually they are good about it. The senior is very good about always answering his pager promptly but the sophomore lost his pager, and then the replacemnet "broke", so we have given up on that tracking method and instead rely on notes and the phone. I have to remind him periodically because he sometimes forgets, and I do call all his friends when he forgets until I find him. (Make sure you have ALL the friends' numbers. They don't like being called at the friends so calling is a good reinforcement method.) When grades plummet (a D or F on report card), they are required to come straight home to do homework, except on Fridays. This is all moot if your child plays a sport because you will never see them until they come home after dinner all tired and dirty. But that's another story.
Be very, very specific about what your son can and cannot do (e.g., make it an absolute priority that he has to answer your pager immediately and if he doesn't you ground him and take the pager away for a weekend, or a couple of days, or whatever's appropriate, and only page him if he's later than he's promised, or if it's really vital he call you--make him realize that a measure of his maturity is how responsible he can be and that you'll be very disappointed in him if he doesn't live up to this responsibility). Also, choose your battles carefully. If you're vague or unsure in dealing with your son, believe me from experience, that's when trouble happens and miscommunications occur. Forget the "R" movies restriction. I've known 12-year olds who've gotten into R-rated movies. Really find out who he's hanging out with. Make it a point to pick him up and give rides to him and his friends and by doing this you'll learn who he hangs out with and where he spends some of his time (write down every phone number of every friend, and the parent phone number you can find out on your own, keeping the list by your phone--mine actually made a list which I was very grateful for when I said how worried I was when I had no idea where she was at any given time). Give him a lot of slack up to the time he has to be home and if he's not home at the appointed time, page him feeling confident he'll call you. I believe it's okay to make deals with him as long as you keep your end of the bargain and he keeps his end; as each year goes by and he's proven some maturity, let him know exactly the freedoms you can give him (that won't harm him or your principles). Don't yell in frustration (I've done that and all it does is build a soundproof wall around your child), but pick a quiet time to let him know your ground rules and to set up ground rules, and let him know when you feel he's gone too far. Do worry about the drugs and drinking. He'll never admit to you he's drinking or doing drugs because it's most likely experimental at this point with him trying to fit in, so don't believe him. I know you want to trust your child but he's in his own world and will turn to that world more so in the next few years--don't be naive--you need to be well-informed. This is my main advice and other parents who have boys (I have only dealt with a teenage daughter, but have a son who will be there sooner than I want to think about) will no doubt have wisdom beyond this. --jahlee
I have the same questions as the person responding to "Hanging out and free time." I don't think it's appropriate for high schoolers to be at large mixed parties at houses where the parents aren't home. Many people I talk to say they agree with me, but apparently many of them don't check before letting their kids go to parties. My child, too, is embarrassed by my insistence on checking and notices that many parents don't. I also don't think it's appropriate for high schoolers to be hanging out in the street after dark with no particular destination or activity. Again, many people say they agree, but I see a lot of kids doing so whose parents either think it is ok or don't know where their kids are. I would like to know how many parents agree with me, and how many actually check. Are there any weekend evening social activities that appeal to teenagers? I would let my child have a party, but I would be at home and would only admit people who were invited, so maybe that isn't appealing. Please post this anonymously. [Editor: see also previous discussion "Teen Parties" http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/teens/parties.html
In response to the parent whose son is Hanging Out with Free Time --- and who use to express interest in the Y. While he may be into activities with friends that now may make the Y of no interest to him, for other parents the Friday night program is a great program. (For the rest of this recommendation, see Friday Night at the Berkeley Y.)
I was particularly interested in this person's letter as it was so similar to many of my concerns about 'Free time'.

My 8th grader really values her 'hanging out' time even though my experience and education tell me that there more productive things for her to do. I have struggled to find an afterschool activity that would appeal to her and have some 'merit' e.g. a sport, music, theatre etc. etc. All that I hear tells me how kids without direction fall into bad ways etc. etc. Last year I begged for her to do a GATE class but she finally put me in my place and explained (as if I just didn't get it) that she was perfectly happy to enjoy being with her friends 'hanging out' and that GATE classes were for kids whose parents made them do it or simply didn't have friends. I am old enough to realise that this cannot be completely true but I also hear that she is telling me that 'hanging out' is what she wants to do.

We have never had a TV so that isn't an issue for us. She does do a pottery class on Tuesday in the early evening and babysits for 3 hours after school on Monday and sometimes at weekends. She has a membership to the Y as I am still trying to insist on a sport/exercise activity, but isn't very excited about going. She has gone about once a week but probably spends an equal amount of time in the changing room as in the gym!!

Her passion is music ... the kind that is hard for someone like me to relate to!!! Punk, Heavy Metal. She did go to the Gilman club for the first time this weekend and apparently loved it. It was VERY intimidating to see the 'scene' as I dropped her off but I remind myself that all those unusual looking folks are someone's kid. She also emulates that 'Look" ( the dyed hair, black clothes, piercings etc.) but I figure it is just another stage. Remember when all they wore was Osh Kosh overalls, or pink and purple??

She does her homework, eats dinner with us and is generally a great kid who wants to 'hang' with her own set. We have discussed it at length and have agreed to let her choose her path as long as she maintains some semblance of herself ( as opposed to being a cardboard cut out of a certain identity group). We tried to explain that this time is a stepping stone for the next stage of life and as such is a transient period. If she seems to be closing all doors and not remaining open to other things then we will have to play a different role and interfere to a greater degree.

She gets a lot of freedom but is responsible. She always calls to let us know where she is after school. We like her friends. She knows that if her grades should drop that we will be on her case.

My parents gave me freedom and taught me to be responsible, both to myself and others. Both of us ( myself and her Dad) are adventurous and we hope she will find a passion to pour her energies into eventually. It is not easy being an adolescent but I think that we can only be a guide for our kids. They reject our attempts to force them along the 'right' path even though they also are aware that we may actually be right. They want to make their own decisions even if they may not be the best ones for their long term future.

It is a pity that there are no places for them to go to "Hang out". She told me that they are told to get off school grounds if they are not enrolled in an official after-school program. I explained what the possible reasons for that might be and she understood but it leaves them with very few alternatives. The fact that they do not want to do something that is organized means that it is hard to set something up.

If you do trust your child I think that they really benefit from you showing that you trust. If they accept that the consequences of breaking the trust will result in a loss of priveleges it may work for all of us involved. I hope so!!! It is quite a quandary to kow what the right thing is, as each kid is different to the next.

Deb


Am I really the only parent asking these questions?

Nov 2001

Well, it was bound to happen, and I've read in many time here in these notes....my 14 year old daughter asked to go to some friend's house to hang out on Friday night (not somewhere she had been before). I asked my usual who- what- when- where- why questions; I got vague answers. I kept asking them over a couple of days and as I probed some answers got clear while others were muddled. She had to go back and forth between several people to find out who was going to be there, were the parents going to be home, were they planning to go out anywhere else. Then finally I was told that I was the ONLY parent who was asking these questions, that everyone else's parents let them do basically whatever they wanted with their friends, and didn't have to answer so many questions. And by the way, what was my problem

Sigh, I should have learned something by now, huh? I think my questions were reasonable, but am I really the only parent asking these questions? Some of her friends have older siblings so maybe the parents feel like they've been through this before and have loosened up somewhat. I know most of the kids (although not well), they've been to our house, which makes me feel slightly more willing to take her word for it-but sometimes that's not enough. It still seems hard to strike the right balance between staying involved vs trusting everything you are told the first time you are told it. Am I being too intrusive? Are these the basic questions other parents of teens ask and how far do you probe to find out? It turned out fine..... Kathy


This is a reply to the mother whose 14 year old says she's the only parent who asks whether parents will be at home, etc. when she visits.

No, you're not the only one -- my daughter (almost 15 and a sophomore) insists that I am. We've been having a running discussion. I think I've won out that she has to let me know where she is, but she says she won't EVER be able to go to a party because NO ONE at BHS has chaperones at parties, even in another part of the house --- and after all, since she doesn't smoke or drink, what could go wrong? My explaining what could go wrong doesn't have much of an effect. Nor does the fact that she's gone to a couple of chaperoned parties and had a good time.

I realize that my insistence will probably lead to her sneaking and lying (she probably has gone to at least one unchaperoned party without my knowledge, which is what started the discussion.) But I think it's important to maintain that unchaperoned parties are dangerous and not OK. At least she'll probably go to fewer of them. My question is, is what she says about BHS parties generally true? If it is, I'd like to hear the thinking of parents who let kids have unchaperoned parties in their homes.


Dear Kathy,
You are definitely NOT the only parent asking these very sane and very reasonable questions. If you were to probe further, you might find that there is not really a statistical sample available proving that all the other kids' parents are unconcerned and ask no questions. Of course all parents have different standards, but it's not as if you're insisting on attending the function. In case your daughter is miffed at your treating her with lack of trust, you may tell her that you would ask the same questions of your husband: Where are you going? When will you be home? What's it for? Who else will be there? How can I get hold of you? etc. And if your daughter were thinking of practicalities, she'd ask the questions of you, as well. It's how a family functions, not a sign of distrust.
And you might remind her that these are particularly difficult times; we are looking after each other, for our own comfort and for everyone's safety. When she's on her own, she can take pride in telling no one where or what or when or who. (The attitude passes when they are not so insecure about their own identities and independence.) Tobie
Reply to the parent asking questions about where the party is, will parents be there, and other normal responsible info that a parent should know-- my daughter also uses the line that I am the only one that asks these questions. If this is so in her peer group, then I am the only responsible parent of the group. But I think it is just a line, a version of don't bug me, which it is our job to do regardless if they like it or appreciate the care behind it. Unsupervised parties are dangerous, checking out the facts is necessary. Sybil
Am I really the only parent asking these questions? No you're not. Been there too. My daughter finally opted not to go rather than have me embarass her by contacting the parents to be sure they even knew about the party. Fine. She stayed home. My rule is I have to speak with the parents and assure myself that I am comfortable with their rules. I have to take her and meet them too. She struggles a bit sometimes still. But she knows that this rule is firm. I trust my daughter, but I don't trust people I've never met.
Here is my advice when your teen is vague about where he or she is going, what s/he will be doing, etc: askaskaskaskaskaskaskASK questions!

When this began for us and our teen, we were innocent and ignorant. I don't want to go into details, but because we weren't firm and didn't ask questions about who, what and when, a friend our daughter was with wound up in ER, and we didn't know what she had ingested because the kids involved were reluctant to tell. Turned out it was booze (bad enough, but nothing worse, thank goodness), but the police had to get involved in order to extract the "confession." We were in shock. Not six months prior, our little girl was playing with beanie babies. Like September 11, this episode recalls for us a distinct "before" and "after" in our family dynamics. Sad, but we all learned a lesson.


The most important question to be asked which would relieve you of your concerns should be a call to the parents house that she was staying with. That's the only way to be sure there will be adult supervision. And NO, you are not the only parent asking. I bet if you asked some of the other parents of kids spending the night, in most cases you would have found that they asked as well or the parents know each other. A lot of times our kids don't think we talk to the parents of their friends, but you'd be amazed at how smoothly things work out once you start to do just that. I'm sure the other parents would appreciate the call. Marianne
To the parents of teens (daughters, but I think it applies to everyone) who ask "Am I asking too many questions? Am I the only one?" NO and NO. You are not asking too many questions about where your teen is going and with whom, etc. and no, you are not the only one doing the asking. I have 2 teenage daughters, 15 and 17. I always ask where, with whom, are the parents there(if not, particulcarly the 15 year old, they don't go; with the 17 yr. old it depends whose house and who will be there. She will be off to college in a year and needs to be making some of her own decisions) and how she will get there and home again. They have curfews. I believe we do a great dis-service to our children to not ask. My kids always felt cared about even if they didn't like it or disagreed with my response. I wish more parents would become proactive, show concern and recognize the importance of being involved in their kids' lives. My daughter has a friend whose parents allowed her to do as she pleased and my daughter sees the folly in that, she says they shouldn't allow her to be out so late and not know who she is with. I think is scares kids to be making all those decisions without parent input whether they acknowledge it or not. Keep asking!
No, you aren't, but it seems so. I even take her to a gathering and go into the home with her and chat with the parent! Horrors, gasp, die of embarrassment. When my son was that age, he had several parties. I was astounded that only 1 parent of the girls we didn't know called me or even came to the door. And they wouldn't ask when they should return to pick up their children -- they were waiting for their kids to call. After the first time, I told my son to tell the kids that we'd take them home if parents weren't there to pick them up at 11, so at least I didn't have to stay up wondering if they'd come. Barbara
Your daughter might be right that not many other parents ask the questions or make an effort. I do. It is my right and responsibility as a parent. I also always wlak my daughters to the door of the house where they are dropped off and talk to the parents of the hosting friend. The parents are usually grateful that at least one parent made the effort, introduced herself and asked whether any help was needed. I feel if more parents did that there would be many fewer problems with unsupervised parties. Ksenija
Reply to the parent wondering if she's the only one asking questions: No. You are not the only one asking questions and checking on your child's whereabouts, although it is really commonplace to feel like you are. My close to 16 year old has to provide answers to all those questions you mentioned - plus some! If she's going to be somewhere where I don't know the parents, I have to speak to them! I have 2 older (adult) children and if anything it has made me more cautious with the youngest. I am acutely aware of how much more dangerous the world has become for teenagers and how the natural consequences for some of their misadventures nowadays is DEATH! As I often remind my daughter this has nothing to do with not trusting HER. It has more to do with not trusting people I don't know . There are markedly different expectations and rules in different families. It is a fact that there are parents around who not only OK alcohol and drug use, but provide it to their kids and kids' friends. It has most frequently been explained to me as justifiable because "the kids are going to do it anyway......". Anyhow, please be assured you are not alone in doing what you feel is best to help keep your daughter safe.
Of course you are not the only one; and like other teenage challenges there are various ways that work for various families. One approach that has worked for us is couching these questions in a context of: this is how adults (which you as a teenager are asking to be considered) treat each other. For example, if I go out in the evening I always tell my husband where I'm going, how to reach me, when to expect me back; he tells me the same. This has to do with our consideration of each other, not some sort of power trip. If I'm not back when I expect to be, and don't call to let him know of some change in plans, I hope (and I count on) him caring enough to try to reach me, and if necessary to go find out if I've run into a ditch. We tell our kids the same thing. It has at least given us a basis of expectation. V
By all means, ask who, what, where, etc. Don't be swayed by your child's protests or the other parents' negligence. We went through a similar situation when my now 11th grade daughter was in 9th grade. It seemed like there was just one other parent who was willing to be as vigilant as we were in keeping track of our daughters and, frankly, it made me angry at her friends' parents for making my job so much harder. I think my daughter was secretly relieved that she was accountable to us (though she won't admit it), and now seems so much more mature and capable of making better choices.
In response to "Am I really the only parent asking these questions?" ... Rest assured that you're not. I ask my 16-year-old daughter the same questions: when, where, why, with whom (specific names, not just "some friends") and whether there will be an adult present during the entire stay (not necessarily supervising but their presence is important nonetheless). Whether or not your daughter's friends' parents ask these questions is besides the point. I don't necessarily see it as a question of intrusiveness or distrust; rather, it's about responsibility and care. You daughter should take pride in knowing that she has caring parents, and if she has any reservations about telling you where she's going, then maybe she shouldn't be going to these places, and she probably knows it. I don't even have to ask my daughter anymore; she knows to volunteer all information. My husband and I also share our schedule (very detailed) with both our daughters, so the whole family knows where everyone is at all times. I think it's a good practice anyway at this day and age. Hope this helps. Kim
What was and is communicated in our family is something along the lines of : " yes, you have the freedom to hang out with your friends but I need to know which part of the solar system you are hanging out in because if there is an emergency on our end, god forbid, and we need to reach you, we need to know where you are." That one has gotten understood by our three teenagers. There is a laugh and an understanding of the love that is there and the reasonableness of the communication. Hope this helps someone. Deborah
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