Dear Dr. Wes & Miranda: Throughout high school, my mom was overprotective and gave me a strict curfew of 11:30 p.m., until senior year, when I persuaded her to go to 12:30 a.m. I’m now a college freshman (female), and no longer under her roof, and I’ll admit I’ve done my share of the “sheltered children become the hardest partiers” deal. I’m home for the holidays, and my curfew is still 12:30 a.m. That’s earlier than even my friends who are still in high school. At 19 years old, I’m still afraid of arguing about this because my mom just does the guilt trip on me. I got caught drunk once this fall, and she tried to ground me. I’ve talked with her about giving me more freedom, and she does the old, “My roof, my rules.” I get that, but how am I supposed to grow up? Someday I’ll turn 21 and still feel the need to hide my drinking.
Miranda: Here’s a little-known fact: Parents and teens don’t always get along. Sure, it would be great if you and your mom could compromise on your curfew, but that’s unlikely. Typically, if a teen wants something, she should present a rational argument of why she deserves it. However, since you already have one strike against you, that won’t go well.
I’m assuming you want us to say your mom is wrong, but I see her side of it as well. It seems like one of the reasons you want a later curfew is to go partying, so her decision is logical.
Look at it from her side. It might give you a new perspective. You are not in the bargaining position here. Not only have you been caught once, but you are the child. You live under her roof during the holidays, and that also means that you must live by her rules. I can tell you two to compromise, but she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to.
It is also time for you to talk about the incident this fall because it doesn’t seem like the two of you resolved it very well. If you can put it to rest, your mom may relax. Remember that no parent should support underage drinking, and until you’re 21, your mom isn’t going to be OK with it.
Try to have that rational discussion with your mom. Ask her what her expectations are for you and how long she is going to continue to enforce this curfew. Make a list of ways you can get your curfew removed, if she allows. Things like getting a job, cleaning your room/dorm or having a certain GPA will at least give you something to work with. If you stay calm and mature during this conversation, it will show her that you not only mean business, but that you are ready for a later curfew.
Dr. Wes: We all know I’m not a fan of the big college party scene. But I also understand your point that young people who are not given an opportunity to make mistakes as teens — and receive the consequences that go along with that — tend to find ways to screw up as young adults.
I also think Miranda may be missing a small point here. You actually are in a bargaining position now. If your mom is paying for college, she has her bargaining chips clearly out on the table. You, on the other hand, have a lot of input into whether you live at home when school is not in session, and she needs to consider that before laying down excessive consequences.
If you want to live with your mom, I suggest you follow her rules just as Miranda notes. While I really don’t agree with her approach (grounding a college freshman for drinking?), I do agree that she has a right to expect you to comply with her values when you’re home.
If you don’t like that, you can sublease an apartment next summer and continue to live as you please. Just don’t ask your mom to foot the bill, and remember you’ll need a cosigner, so don’t do any of that as an act of defiance.
I received a longer version of your letter, so I know you were a reliable teenager who held a job and stayed out of trouble in high school. If you continue that in college, your mom has nothing to worry about.
If instead you decide to make up for lost time by getting your wild oats sown, I think your mom may wish she’d used more natural and logical consequences and less coercion and guilt-tripping. Foster Cline and Jim Fay have a lot to say about this in their Love and Logic materials. She might want to take a look at them at loveandlogic.com, even as you’re headed back to college soon.
Bottom line: You’re a big girl now, and your mom can’t protect you from the biggest threat any young adult faces: herself. You’re right to expect more freedom now. Just remember that freedom comes with independence, and you need to start earning yours.