“Police To Step up Curfew Enforcement”–this headline appeared in my local newspaper last week. What baffles me about that headline is why the police need to enforce a curfew. Is that not the parent’s responsibility? Of course, I realize my statement is redundant, because if all parents were managing their parental responsibility police would not need to do so.
Furthermore, I am outraged that my tax dollars are being spent on using the police to enforce a curfew when that is clearly the responsibility of parents. Police officers are sorely needed for issues–I as a tax payor can not handle–arresting driver’s for traffic infractions, investigating car crashes, homicides, burgleries, etc. Why should my tax dollars be spent to handle the responsibilities of parents? I have lived in nine different communities and the police department has been used to enforce curfews in each one. Why is using police the perceived answer to enforcing a curfew for children?
The answer was given to me when my children were in their teens. While having dinner with a couple, who also had teenagers, I announced that I needed to leave at ten-thirty. Ten-thirty, they exclaimed, why so early? I stated I needed to be home at eleven when my children were expected home from their evening out. The concept of being home when one’s children are expected home from an evening out was a foreign concept to these parents. No matter, how I explained my reasoning, my premise was denounced as unnecessary. I asked if their children were able to keep their curfew without the parent(s) being home–their sheepish answer was, usually not. But that missing a curfew on occasion was no big deal. My question is–How can one teach their children that ground rules are to be respected, if the parent is unwilling to role model them? I did not know then, and do not know now, how to teach children appropriate boundaries, follow-through, commitment, etc. without role modeling the same behaviors.
There is proof in the pudding–a curfew for my children was considered gospel–they had a fifteen minute leeway for unanticipated circumstances or I expected a phone call to advise me if they would be later than fifteen minutes and why. Since I did not have a cell phone–they could not contact me at the restaurant to advise me if they would be late. Without exception they followed through. Why?–because they knew I would accept nothing less and that consequences would follow if they did not adhere to the ground rules. Did they feel too tightly monitored? Maybe, but I can assure you as adults they now appreciate my firm adherence to ground rules, boundaries, expectations, etc. Yes, we negotiated later curfews for special circumstances and occasions.
It is a psychological fact of life that children are looking for limits, guidelines and boundaries for their behavior. Children, any age, experiment, test and seek to discover what the world has to offer and how what they do affects themselves and their surroundings. Although children protest loudly when limits are set, without boundaries they feel out of control. Without limits, appropriate impulse control does not develop. If children are unable to find limits, they continue to push, becoming anxious when there seems to be no end to how far they can go. With their immature, inexperienced egos and impulse control as their only defense against the world, they unconsciously want someone to stop them so that they can feel in control and, therefore, secure.
When parents fail to set limits or follow-through with consequences for transgressions, children (no matter their age) feel unimportant and unloved. Limits and negative consequences for breaching them, on the other hand, reassures children that they are noticed and that someone cares.