We certainly aren’t going to put bars on the windows and doors just because our teen is sneaking out of the house, though we might have thought about it. Our teen clearly doesn’t care about our rules, our consequences, or our boundaries. Curfews mean nothing for our household, or the laws of the town in which we live. For whatever reason, our teen thinks sneaking out of the house is okay and we cannot seem to stop them. At night we lay awake, frustrated they are gone again, worried about what they are doing outside the home at all hours of the night.
First, Have that Discussion, Again
Parents might find it unnecessary to sit down and have a discussion about sneaking out. We know they’re sneaking out. They know they’re sneaking out. Nobody seems to have a solution. Enacting parental authority is key to reminding teens that the parents are in charge, even if they refuse to act accordingly. Repeat to your teens as many times as necessary that their is a curfew and there are rules. Sneaking out of the house is against the rules. Breaking household rules has consequences. Attempt to get information from your teen about where they are going, what they are doing, and why they think it is okay to break the rules. You might be able to gain valuable information, or you might be met with total avoidance. Either way, it is important to let teens know you are trying to understand them and find a way to work with them instead of against them, even though they are working directly against you.
Second, Review the Potential Harms of Sneaking Out
Teens are discovering their autonomy as they grow older and want to exercise the farthest extremes of their ability to take care of themselves. Sneaking out might be a way that teens are saying “I’m fine on my own.” Teens have curfews for a reason. There are some places they simply shouldn’t be late at night. Unfortunately, the developing teenage brain is not interested in consequences.
Review and Post Household Rules Regarding Curfew
Have everyone in the family sign a behavioral contract regarding curfew, sneaking out, and the consequences for these actions. One of the reasons teenagers consistently break rules is because parents fail to enforce consequences for rule breaking. If your teen is constantly sneaking out of the house, it is time to start enforcing the rules without hesitation. Make sure the rules and consequences are clearly understood by everyone in the house. You can create levels of consequences, which end in a penultimate punishment like reporting a runaway to the police.
Enforce the Rules and Consequences Next Time it Happens
If you haven’t been enforcing the rules until now, your teen will see your threats as empty ones. Your teen sneaking out again is more a matter of when, rather than if. When your teen sneaks out again, start the consequences from the bottom tier. Once they reach the maximum amount of rule breaking allowances, take the final step in calling the police and reporting teens out after curfew or a runaway. Your teen will not be pleased by this and will likely be angry. They will, however, be less inspired to sneak out of the house again.
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