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It’s parents’ job to set boundaries

It’s parents’ job to set boundaries
Sept. 6, 2005 12:00 AM
With three teenagers in the household, I qualify to talk on teen curfew issues. I welcome police enforcement of teen curfews outside the movie venues at Chandler Fashion Center and Ahwatukee’s AMC 24, especially since many of these kids are young – as in seventh and eighth grades.

But police enforcement is a non-issue for our family. We’ve always set curfews and not allowed our kids to just “hang out.”

About two years ago, my daughter, then age 12, was invited to “hang out” at the Chandler mall with some new friends. “Please, Mom, my friend has a cellphone. We’ll be f-i-i-i-i-ne.”

Sorry. In my book, 12-year-old girls just hanging out at the mall is an invitation for trouble. No matter what kids that age may think, their judgment is not refined yet.

Oddly, when I called the other girl’s mother to explain that my daughter wasn’t allowed at the mall without an adult, the mother seemed surprised. She saw nothing wrong with the practice and had been allowing her daughter to do so for some time. My daughter pouted and complained, but she learned.

As teenagers and as adults, we are known by the company we keep. And my teens, whether by personality or necessity, are drawn to friends whose parents also prohibit “hanging out” to just hang out. If they do go to the movies or an event, I know the name of the movie/event, the start time and the end time. And if they’re going to someone else’s house, we parents all agree to talk and verify plans so both sides know what’s going on.

Similarly, we rarely visit the movies at night, and especially not on Friday and Saturday nights. Matinees or late afternoon shows offer better pricing, and few movies these days are worth $9. But even without a price differential, we shun the AMC 24 in Ahwatukee on weekend evenings to avoid walking through the often smoky teen (and sadly, preteen) gantlet.

Having a 17-year-old son raises different issues. With teens driving, the issues are not “hanging out” but who’s driving whose car.

But I did get him a cellphone. There comes a time when I may not always know where he is, and I have to trust that after 17 years his sense of right and wrong is intact. He is, after all, only one year from being an adult and teen years are transition years for ever-increasing responsibility and freedom.

Perhaps what bothers me most is parents and teens who decry the lack of entertainment options, as if hanging out in front of a movie theater or at the mall is the only social option. Some of the most fun people I’ve met in life grew up in small towns where you learn to make your own fun. And I think this is where other parents need to stay more involved with teens and offer to host parties, events or game nights that allow teens to get together for fun. Teenagers are really fun, interesting people if you take time to talk with them.

Parenting isn’t easy, but it’s a parent’s job to set boundaries, and a child’s job to test those boundaries. Setting a reasonable curfew and safe guidelines for how teens spend their free time is a parent’s job. Police enforcement should be a last resort.

But perhaps parents will begin to get the message if curfew times are reiterated and enforced.

Katrina Shawver of Ahwatukee is a writer and mother of three. She can be reached at casadeletters@ yahoo.com.

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