Setting a Curfew for College Age Children?

December 28, 2006

A tired college student trying to study.I set a curfew of 3:30am on the weekends, and 12:00 on week nights for my 20 year old son who is attending community college but living with us. He thinks this is unfair. We don't have any major problems with him like drugs, gambling, drinking, or being in a gang. He has very good grades and works part time. He buys his own clothes and rarely eats at home.


He doesn't contribute to the home, and keeps his room very untidy. Between work and college he is hardly home during the week. When he is home he stays in his room and doesn't socialize with the family. I don't know what to do about this. I have talked often to him about his attitude. He is like a stranger in my home.


December 29, 20060 found this helpful
Best Answer

He's at an age when he is learning to be his own person. This is OK, he needs to learn that. If he isn't being disrespectful other than not spending every waking minute while at home with other family members, I don't see the problem. He has a job and makes good grades, which means is a lot more responsible than many other people his age. If he's in his room a lot when he's home, he's probably studying. That's probably how he gets good grades. What kind of family time is he missing out on? I mean, is it like channel surfing in front of the tv or major family events like birthdays and such? Can a 20 year old really be expected to spend all their free time with their immediate family? He should be at important events, but he also needs to have his own social life. When I was in college I lived in the dorm and had a part time job. I was rarely in my dorm room and when I was, I was studying. If I had lived at home it would have been the same as your son-- not home much and spending lots of time alone studying when at home. It's not an "attitude" problem, it's just what you do at that age because of all the things going on in your life. Remember, adults just have to go to work, but most college students work and study and go to class and play sports... they're really busy at this age. I had to pay for some of my college tuition each semester and my parents paid the rest so I didn't feel entitled to anything, and I think having your son pay rent to you or pay some of tuition is reasonable.


You didn't mention if he is breaking curfew or not. If he is not breaking it, this may indicate that he knows to come home at a reasonable hour and when he says it's not fair he may just mean he resents having to follow a "rule" rather than be trusted to make the decision on his own. I am 24 and my younger brothers are 19 and 21. The 19 year old lives in the dorm at college and gets along with my parents great. The 21 year old lives at home and my mom has a lot of the same complaints you do. I think she just needs to give him more space, like as much space as he would have if he lived in a dorm. It's true that he shouldn't expect a free room and an all you can eat buffet, but I also don't think she can expect him to spend a significant amount of time at home with his parents at this age. He is not a child and he is not a teenager, he is an adult that is getting an education so he can better support himself in the near future. You should be proud of your son for juggling school and work and sticking with it. A lot of students drop out when they feel like they have too much on their plate. If you are supportive of him during this transitional time, he will appreciate it later because he will have had the opportunity to get an education and get a good job when he graduates.

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By Jean in GA (Guest Post)
December 29, 20060 found this helpful
Best Answer

For a second there, I thought you were talking about MY 22 year old. They sound just alike. I let mine do as he pleases. His room is terrible, he has good grades, works part-time, doesn't eat at home. But, I am trying to treat him as if he DIDN'T live at home. The only difference in our children is mine does pay $50 rent a month, and he doesn't know this, but I put half of that $50 a month in a savings account for him for when he gets married, or does move out. He started doing that back when he turned 21 years old.


He does have his car insurance to pay, along with his cellphone bill, but other than that . . . no bills.

I think that when he turned 21, and I decided in MY mind that if he moved out, I wouldn't be able to control what he did, and at 21, he was still my baby, but, he was an adult by law.

I don't work, so I am always at home, but a lot of times he will come find me here at home, and want to talk. Most of the time, he stays in his room if he is home, but there are those times, when he is a chatter box. Also, now, he will want me or his brother to go out to eat lunch or supper with him, and he says he will pay! All of this started when I decided to let him "find his way". His dad is not like me, so they have a strained relationship.

My son calls me when he is going to be late at college, or working late. The only request that I have is that I want to know if he is going to be late coming home, and a general idea of where he is, and that he have his cell phone with him.


Every family has a different way of dealing with adult children, but I figure if he is a good kid, works, makes the dean's list, pays his bills, he can't be doing too bad.

Like I said earlier, when he turned 21, I let go a lot, because he had never given us trouble before, but his dad expects more. A higher paying job, new car, going to college full time. It can't be done, he would need more help from somewhere, only dad doesn't see that. My relationship with our son is good. With our son going to college part-time, working part-time (35 hours a week $300 a week), is hard. To make the dean's list, work too, he needs some "HIM" time.
Good luck! Wait and see, before you know it he will be coming to you and wanting to talk. Oh, I don't ever plan on him eating with us at meal times, the rest of the family just eats.

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 213 Posts
December 28, 20062 found this helpful

---> My HOME rules for Adult/Children are these:

#1) When a child is 18 & graduates from high school, He or She pays room and board.... it may only be $50 or $100, (it depends on how much they make) but they need to learn responsibility. If they don't like it, they know where the door is & they can find out on their own just how much it cost to live elsewhere & buy their own food. BUT, you need to LAY DOWN THE LAW on this. Collect on the first of the month. No excuses what so ever.


#2) The adult/child must buy their own hygiene products & their own clothes (shampoo, razors, deodorant etc)

#3) If the adult/child has a car, He/She will pay for their own car repairs and car insurance. (or bus fare)

#4) They will pay for their own cell phone as this is a luxury.

#5) They will wash their own clothes and put them away.

#6) They will pick up after themselves and keep their area clean and neat. (or as I said earlier, they know where the door is! If this seems to strict, Why not fine them per day of mess, or assign them an additional chore each day their space is unkempt)

#7) They will keep a good attitude & treat the rest of the family with respect! This is non-negotiable! (Remember, your younger children are learning from them!)

#8) They will get a job & work at least part time, so they can learn responsibility and help with the above bills.

#9) No visitors or phone calls (on the house phone) after 10:PM.


#10) Of course they will have a curfew...(& I believe 3:30 is WAY to late... 1 or 2 AM is more like it. It should be even earlier if they are only 18 or 19.

#11) They will help with household chores such as, dishes, lawn mowing, vacuuming & taking the garbage out. (since they choose to be a member of the household & live at home at a low rent, they need to help with the household chores!) They also need to learn to cook & help with meals when they eat at home.

#12) The adult/child will keep you posted as to their schedule and whereabouts & let you know when they will be home, & call you if anything changes so you don't worry.

#13) Of course NO drugs, Cigarettes or Alcohol. If you find out they are using any of these, put them RIGHT SMACK in Rehab!

#14) If you are paying their tuition or even part of it, they are still responsible to follow YOUR rules, even if they move out... If they don't follow your rules, They can pay their own tuition.

*** When they pay their own way 100% Then & ONLY then, can they live & do as they like ***

-----> If they do not follow the above rules, they have one month to find a new place to live! (You can give them 3 strikes in 2 months if you like, But POST their rules, so there will be no arguing about them later!

-----> Any child will test the boundaries (it's their nature) and if you do not have clear posted rules, they will choose NOT to follow them. It's your JOB to teach them to be good, responsible citizens. If He/She just sits in his room and mopes, its because you are not following through. You need to POST these rules (or some to your liking) and MAKE them follow them, or they can find out the hard way by moving out!

-----> Children need to respect their parents and the rules of the household, & watch their language no mater what their age!

* One more note, When my children reached Jr High school age, I had them sit down with me every month as I paid the bills: I had them write out the checks for each bill, stamp them & address them as I watched. This way they learned: How much it cost to run a household, How to write a check, Basic Bill paying & Budgeting, Where the money goes & why they can't have everything they want. All 4 children are now grown adults & they all have thanked me for this experience.

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By Michawn (Guest Post)
December 28, 20062 found this helpful

Yep, Cyinda took ALL the words outta my mouth. When I moved back home after "being adult" (having a baby giving it up for adoption and having another all before my 20th birthday) I was allowed to decompress for several months (this was unspoken, I think we ALL needed it). Then I had to pay my way. I cooked, cleaned (same by NOON on Saturday schedule my sister and I followed when we were growing up) and kept my room up (well tried too, I STILL work on that one!!!). I went back to college (albeit at first to just be with adults) and earned a degree (with honors) and worked full time (by then I had moved out). I didn't have a curfew, because I just didn't go out, or if I did I ASKED PERMISSION (course someone had to be responsible for the baby if he cried in the night) and always was home by 11 or so (my own decision).

BUT WHAT ARE OUR parents teaching us, but to live as an adult? I thank my parents everyday for those years.

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By IMAQT1962 (Guest Post)
December 29, 20061 found this helpful

When our kids grew up (and some went to college)anytime they lived under our roof they had to be home by 1 am and paid $100 a month to live there.
Trust me they used more electricity and ate more groceries than that but I wanted them to learn that nothing was free even living at home and if they thought this was unfair, they could move out at anytime. But if they did there wouldn't be an all you could eat buffet at there place or free electricity or internet or water or cable, etc.

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December 29, 20060 found this helpful

I believe it is not normal behavior to shut ones self off from family and confining ones self to a bedroom.There could be other factors for this unusual behavior.Maybe you should look into some professional counseling for you and your son.

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By Cheryl from Missouri (Guest Post)
December 29, 20061 found this helpful

I have a 20 year old college student, too. (Also a 17 yr old daughter thats a junior in high school). He works and goes to college. Our rules for weekends is 1am curfew. I agree that 3:30 is too late. He complained about curfew too, being grown-up and all. I explained to him he wasn't "grown-up" until he was living on his own and paying his own way. And if he didn't like the rules at home he could move out. Plain and simple. I've explained to him moving out isn't just about the money, it's realizing all the things other people do for him that he will have to start doing for himself. Appreciating everything he has now. He agreed that a 1am curfew was a cheap "price" to pay.

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 213 Posts
December 29, 20061 found this helpful

I disagree with Allison and I'm sure she hasn't raised any teenagers yet, (no disrespect to you Allison) but I TOTALLY agree with Foxrun41.

---> There is probably something going on with your 20 year old son if he stays in his room all the time & won't spend time with the family. I suspect, you'd have a hard time getting him to counseling, but that's what I suspect he needs. My guess is, You really don't have a clue what's really going on in his life. If he's staying out that late, it either means he's doing some hard partying (with either drugs, alcohol or both) OR he's with a girl and having sex, which has dangers of a different sort. Kids at that age think they are "bulletproof" and will live forever, usually not thinking of consequences of what they do to themselves.

---> Don't let the good grades fool you, My sister had an old friend who kept a straight 4.0 grade point all through high school AND college & she did every drug known to man, every day & more on weekends... PLUS had sex with all of the bartenders in her college town so she could drink like crazy for FREE at all the bars in town. (True Story!)

---> Not being social with the family is the first sign of drug use... (or if not drugs, at lease there IS SOMETHING going on or something bothering him)

---> My advise: Take a closer look at your son's behavior, & pardon me if I'm wrong, but from your letter, I get the impression that you really don't want to know exactly what he's doing when he's away from home nearly all night long.... (See no evil... means "there IS no evil" ....NOT SO! .... Take a closer look, but be forewarned, you may not like what you see...
--- >(Now, think about it: What do you think he's doing when he's out at 3 in the morning & he wants to stay out longer?)

---> COMMUNICATION, that's the key with children of EVERY age, If you drive him places, (to appointments or whatever) or have any time when you're alone with him. Use that time to just talk. And LISTEN to him especially to what he's NOT saying. What's going on in his mind? What's going on with his friends? What are his friend's like? Do you know them?

---> BE THE PARENT, don't be his wishy-washy "Friend" ......... Read the HOUSE RULES for adult/children I posted below & make up your own.

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December 29, 20061 found this helpful

I really dont think its fair to just assume someone is on drugs or alcohol just because he chooses not to "hang out" with his family while he is home. When I was home at that age, I hardly ever spent time with my parents just due to the fact that I didn't want to. I didn't really have anything in common with them anymore and needed to find myself. Eventually they grow up into adults and find they want to spend more time with parents. Funny how it works out. But the worst thing you can do is to start accusing them of doing drugs. My dad accused me of this and I never even so much as ever touch a cigarette! It made me even want to be FURTHER away from him. He is old enough to make his own decisions.. you just need to trust that he is doing so, and be there when he needs you.. as a parent. Trust me, if you start accusing and telling him he needs therapy.. you will lose him.

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December 29, 20061 found this helpful

thank you all for your feedback! I was feeling so alone before I posted my problem. Now I am feeling more empowered because I received so many different opinions that I can come to my own decision as to how I will deal with the problem. I am especially grateful to Allison and Jean because my thoughts were more in line with theirs, except I couldn't understand why in just a few short months my son will isolate himself from us. He is never disrespectful, just lazy (very untidy room). I feel certain he doesn't do drugs because he doesn't behave or show symptoms of an addict. His main gripe is he feels "caged" in because I have curfew for him and at 20 he feels he should be able to have more of a say in that. What Allison says is everything he has been saying to us - that if he was away at college, we would have had more confidence that he would make his own curfew. I just didn't know if this was a special problem so I didn't know how to deal with it. Now I am empowered with knowledge of how other 20 yr olds may behave. I won't change my curfew, but I will give him more space. Also he doesn't make much money from his parttime job, and he is responsible for his car insurance, but I think it will be a good idea for me to take at least $5.00 from him as a symbol of support for the home. I can save it for him without him knowing. Thank you all SO MUCH!

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December 29, 20061 found this helpful

3:30 seems awfully generous to me. It is after all, your home and if you're like me, so long as he is out you probably don't rest well. He needs to understand this. If it's any consolation, my son withdrew a bit and became a "foreigner" to me between the ages of about 18 to 23. I think its a natural transition but it just about wore me out! I was happy to some degree that he isolated himself to be honest ... he was just a miserable mess during those years. His room? Like a bomb went off 24/7. I just kept the door closed. Like a miracle when he turned about 23 my sweet, respectable and loving son returned. There are some great pointers here and I do agree that even at his age, there have to be rules he should be expected to abide by. He needs to learn responsibility and believe it or not even at that age they are looking for parents to set boundaries. Don't let him bully you with the "if I was in college" speel either. You are the parent, it is your home and you are the rule maker. This will pass - hang in there!

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Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 472 Feedbacks
December 30, 20060 found this helpful

Wow. So much depends on the young adult's nature and that of the family. I guess that I have a unique perspective on this, I have:
1) Raised a son -- now 24, ending his master's and has been accepted into a PhD program.
2) Returned to school myself, and am surrounded by college students.
3) Taken several psychology courses, including Psychology of childhood (up to late teens), Adult psych and Psych of aging, and Abnormal Psych.
4) Have studied the norms of childhood to adulthood, how both children and parents respond.

I can tell you for a fact that this is the time when all normal children break away from their caregivers and attempt/prepare to be self-sufficient. It includes making one's own decisions, maintaining a job, and everything else you've listed. Your son sounds normal. Like it or not, he must be allowed to fall on his face, pick himself up and go on. It's the way we all learn. I trusted my son to make his own curfew at this age, but he was to let us know where he was in case of emergency. He never took advantage of our trust. Remember, trusting is not the same as turning a blind eye to a problem.

I don't believe you or your son need counseling, it's parents who are controlling that need to step back and reconsider. To expect the family to be the center of his world at this point in his life is unrealistic. He needs to determine what is important to him--it is not a parent's decision to make. Tell him what is expected, but give room for him to make his own decisions.

In time, the pendulum will find it's medium and he'll find the person he was meant to be. Be aware that there is a very high rate of suicide among college students, so don't place undue pressure on him to met your expectations.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 696 Feedbacks
December 30, 20061 found this helpful

It's your house, you make the rules! A 20 yr old probably doesn't think he should be told what to do but I'd say, if he wants to live under your roof, he needs to abide by your rules, simple as that!

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By Tina (Guest Post)
December 30, 20061 found this helpful

I have had it both ways, kids think that they should be able to do what they want, all of the privileges of adult hood, none of the responsibility. He should abide by whatever you feel comfortable with because it is your home. (as far a curfews, contributing etc.) lots of kids are slobs, they somehow learn to take care of their space when they move out and want to be proud of their own home. they don't care right now, like you do about their room. I know I didn't. If my kids want something from me bad enough, and their room bothers me, I tell them that I will give them "X" when they have their room picked up and their laundry done. They fuss, but it does get done!
They do have to take care of their laundry and things. Pick what is important to you in your house and stick to it. If I don't ask my kids to do something with me like go to the movies, or come to dinner, or go shopping or something specific, they would rather be with their friends, or on the computer or playing video games. That is what kids do. they may be doing other things, but unless you have reason to suspect something is going on, why automatically assume the worst? My kids don't have to pay me money if they are full time students, but so far none of them have chosen that route, so consider yourself lucky! If they live at home past 18 and are working, they pay us $50.00 a week, and pay for their own insurance, and cell phone bill. This is when they need to learn some responsibility so that they can make it when they move out on their own. When my daughter quit respecting me in my home, it was time for her to get her own place. So as long as he lives in your house, make decisions that give you peace, and that you can live with! he doesn't have to agree. Just pick your battles, and be clear about your expectations, and invite him along for some family fun. I told my 18 year old just last week that I feel bad when I have to beg him to do family things once in a while. That It hurts my feelings that he would rather be anywhere than here, and he apologized, came home and we all went out for a nice dinner. They think in their own little box, and don't see things your way. that is normal. But you can still tell him how you feel and what you expect. Good Luck!


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December 30, 20060 found this helpful

When me and my husband were that age, the thing back then was to live together.
The thing for the kids now is to stay at home longer.
My daughter is 23 with no signs of moving out.
She works pays for her cell, and car payments and insurance.
She does no housework and the only time her room is clean is when someone comes over to visit her.
Fortunately her room is in the basement and the only time I have to look at it, is when I do laundry.
When I look back, I was a stay at home Mom and thought that it was better, now I wonder!
It is nice to see so many comments and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I guess patience is the name of the game.

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By Lynda (Guest Post)
December 31, 20061 found this helpful

I had to learn from my mistakes with my two adult children, since I had parents who sent such mixed signals, had ever-changing "rules", and were workaholics, too tired to be supportive/loving parents upon coming in each day, fighting/arguing too often about too many things, using me as their scape-goat.

After working one-on-one over many many years with over 350+ mostly young adults in emotional crises/addictions/alcoholism , I can tell you that I never realized just how many differences and factors there can be in any one given young person's life, AS WELL AS how many things they all have in common!

Each generation is not stronger than the previous generation, but rather weaker in most every way, contrary to what we want to think/believe. (There are few exceptions to this fact, but there are some.)

One thing most of them say is how disappointed they are with life and wrong beliefs they were taught:

>Ex.: "Drinking alcohol is a privilege."
*BETTER:"Drinking is a HUGE responsibility, kills
brain cells, and alcohol should be avoided at
all costs because it can become addictive and
cause you to harm/kill others!"

>Ex.: "You can be whatever you want to be when you
grow up!"
*BETTER: "You can be whatever you are ABLE and
know HOW to do, and can qualify for!"

>Ex.: "When you get a degree, you will be
able to earn a very good living and support
yourself well."
*BETTER: "If you prove that you know whatever
your degree is in, you have a better chance of
finding a better job IF you qualify in all other
areas such as getting along with others,
integrity, have a good work ethic, are lucky
enough to be in the right place at the right

>Ex."It's a privilege to get to watch adult videos,
smoke, or stay out late."
*BETTER: You will find should you even dabble in
these things that watching adult
videos/pornographic materials of any kind, that
smoking is both physically harmfully AND
addictive AND not offensive to others, and that
unless you have to work a late shift, staying
out late before a work/school day will quickly
cause a breakdown in some significant way.
I'm sure you will agree that these are NOT a
privilege, regardless of who's doing them, who
they are, or when one does them.

>Ex.: "When you get on your own, you can do
whatever you want to do in this life."
*BETTER: ".....but know that regardless of what you
choose , do by accident, or are tricked into
doing will have consequences OR rewards. I
know you are wise enough to think before you
speak, plan ahead, and stay alert to do what
is best both for you and for others, choosing

Since all children are from God, and we have them for only a portion of their lives to steward in the way they should go, are we stopping long enough to take a fresh look at how these wrong beliefs take hold of us, and how we inadvertantly pass them on
disappointing the kids who become confused, angry,
and greatly disillusioned/frustrated by them?

Allowing them to see our struggles, solutions, weaknesses and strengths is no mistake. They learn
from them. Holding to idealism, dreams/wishes that
they will somehow "find their way" without larger amounts of honesty, family love, encouragement,
a good foundation, and God's wisdom will fail them.

Respect is earned/taught by example, not demanded/forced. We can even pray for a chance of
"re-parenting" them once we realize what needs to be re-learned or shown. Some parents feel that if a child has not learned properly by age 15-16 they are hopeless. I have seen differently, but only with
new teachings, quality reasohing, logical explanations/understanding given to them, IF they
will give parents a "second chance" to do it better.

Since humans were never promised a "rose garden", life on earth will seldom be without , frustration, or effort. It's o.k. to remind them of this, but that with
good character, sincere consideration/love for others,
honesty, pure motives, caution, good choices, and a decent supporting family, they will likely find their purpose, a decent job, and happiness to some degree, perhaps even luck into something great one day. However, we can also remind them of how proud we are to be their parent, how difficult we see
life can be for them "at times", and that few of us has it any different. Just acknowledging that you have not given up on them, that you are not disappointed in them, that you are doing your best to understand them and their dilemma will help them perhaps as much as any one thing you can do.

Afterall, how warm our hearts are when they volunteer to tell us how grateful they are to still have us around, to be able to live at home a while longer, how good it it feels to have some family support, and
that one day they will make us even prouder.."with
God's help."

There's nothing wrong with setting "In OUR FAMILY,
we.......(listing boundaries in this way, even if new to
them.) Regardless of the past, we can always find
"better ways of doing things" we can say.

Try learning the "pass the butter voice" when reminding of any infractions of the 'family rules'...
(As if sitting at a large dinner table and needing someone to 'pass the butter', one doesn't yell, right?
One simply says, "Pass the butter, please." both gently and quietly, although firmly because it is a NEED, not an option.)

It's the same sort of 'rules' with a softer name..."In
OUR FAMILY, we...."). Here I have modified several
borrowed 'rules' from previous lists from others:

If you drop it, pick it up.
If you break it, try to fix it.
If you open it, close it.
If you hurt it, hug it and apologize quickly.
If you lose it, try to find it/replace it.
If you borrow it, return it.
If you move it, replace it to where you found it.
If you dirty it, clean it.
If you love us, be considerate.
If you use the last of it, write it on the groc.list.
If you need something, let someone know gently.
If you get bored, invent/cook/create/imagine.
If you are not happy, discuss it and listen twice as
much as you speak."

etc., perhaps you get the picture, have heard of this
and can then add curfew times to it ?

God bless you. Hope it's a much better year. : )

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