Who is the curfew for?

Parents and Kids Curfew

In my teens I was dating a guy that did not fit the picture of the man my father thought I should be dating.

Here’s the story:

In the early 90’s (ok really early, like 1990), I was dating my first love.  He was everything I could ask for in a boyfriend.  He loved me for exactly who I was and wanted to be with me always.

I was over at his house on a typical Friday night watching a movie.  I was truly exhausted from going to school and working all day.  We started the movie and we both fell asleep.

I didn’t have a curfew, technically.   I would just tell my father what I was doing and ask him what time he wanted me home.  If I didn’t agree with him, I would state my case, and often he would meet me somewhere in the middle.  So on this day in particular my father expected me home at 12:30am.

Well, as you can probably guess, I over-slept.  When I woke up,  I looked at the clock and it was 3:30 am!   As a quick reminder, there were no cell phones (at least for the average teenager) at this time and my boyfriend could not afford a phone in his apartment.  So, the dilemma in my mind was, “Do I rush home and deal with it then or do I stop at a payphone (remember those?) at 3:30am?”  I opted for the plan to rush home and deal with the consequences.  The only thought in my head the whole way home was, “I am in soooo much trouble!”

I run up the stairs to our apartment, I swing the door open and see my dad with the yellow pages in his lap, on the phone, crying.  He drops the phone, looks at me and starts crying harder.  This is so not what I expected! I had only seen my father cry one other time, when my parents decided to divorce.

I look at him and instantly feel his pain. I know that he was so scared that something had happened to me.  He adored the ground I walked on and could not imagine life without me.

I started to explain. “Dad, I am so, so, so sorry!  I was over at John’s house and we were watching a movie and I fell asleep!  You know he doesn’t have a phone and I knew you would be worried so I drove home as fast as I could!”

The Wisdom of Alan Robie (my father):

His response: “I knew that you would never do that to me, so I figured you were in the hospital.  I am just so glad you are ok.  You know how much I love you and I can’t imagine my life without you in it!”

I cried and told my dad I was so sorry to worry him and I would make sure it didn’t happen again.  And from that point on, I set my boyfriend’s alarm clock, just in case.

So here’s the million-dollar question….

Did I learn my lesson without punishment??


My father knew in his heart that I would never intentionally make him worry about me.  He held me in a space of greatness.  He believed in me and came to the conclusion that I had to be in the hospital.  It was the only reason he could see why I didn’t keep my word about my curfew.

This situation opened a door for understanding – an understanding that my father was not my authority.  He was someone who loved me beyond words.  After seeing the truth of my father, his tears, his fears, and his concerns for my well being, I made a decision to make sure my actions reflected the respect and love I had for him.  I was offered the gift of seeing my father as a human who loved me so much that he never gave into the idea that I would purposely do this “to” him.

I learned from the experience, not a punishment.

This was one of the most defining and inspirational moments in my life.  It taught me that if you hold the ones you love in greatness, they will rise to the occasion and be great.





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How Modern Parents Use “Time-Out”

As I started writing this blog post, a thought came across my mind: “I wonder who invented Time-Out and what was the original purpose behind it?”

A few clicks and I arrived at Wikipedia!

Time-Out was actually a concept invented by Arthur Staats in 1958.  (Quick thought….50+ years seems like a very long time ago – two generations ago to be exact.)  His idea and work revolved around the principle of:

“…conditioning responses using extrinsic reinforcers.  It was a way to separate a child from an environment where inappropriate behavior has occurred, and intended to give an over-excited child time to calm down, thereby discouraging such behavior.”

I love the modern age we live in with information at my fingertips!  AND I am so thankful I did not have this information as easy to access when I started working with children.  I may have believed this more punishing version of the Time-Out.  This version is sort of the home Dunce Cap approach for bad behavior.  “Extrinsic Reinforcers” is a fancy way of saying “I, the adult, am going to enforce obedience by banishing you from an activity until you straighten up.”

When I started working with children, my natural response to negative behavior was Time-Out.  However MY Time-Out was structured more along the lines of a sports definition of time-out.  As I refer back to Wiki I find the definition, a perfect match!  Wiki defines a sports time-out as:

“A halt in play, allowing the coaches to communicate with the team, to determine a strategy or inspire morale.” 


So what does Modern Time-Out look like? What is the 2012 version vs. the 1958 version?

Let’s say I come home a little stressed from my day.  Okay…a lot stressed.  I start making dinner and my son says, “What are we having for dinner?”  I answer quickly, “Spaghetti.” He begins to go into a meltdown over spaghetti, which of course is not really about spaghetti.  He is just feeling the stress of the situation and mirroring back my own vibe.  But I go with spaghetti being the problem.

He is screaming, “I DON’T WANT SPAGHETTI!” And now I am ready to throw the spaghetti on the floor!  At least the dog wants spaghetti!  I know this is only going to get worse.  So I decide to insist on a Time-Out.

Here’s the twist…. the Time-Out is for me.

I say to my darling little man, “Mom needs a take a minute.  I am angry and I need to take a minute for myself to feel better.  I am going to go to the bathroom to give myself a moment to remember what I love about me, you, and dinnertime as a family.  When I feel better, I will come out.  I know you will give me the time I need to feel happy again.  Thank you.”

I go to the bathroom and move myself from anger, to frustration, to hope, to knowing that this is not about spaghetti.  This is a moment for me to practice.  Practice feeling better.  Practice being the mom, the person, I am in my heart.

What am I giving my child?  Amazing gifts!

I am taking responsibility for my feelings, and modeling how to handle these moments in life.  I am freeing my child from the responsibility of behaving a certain way to make ME feel good.  I am giving my child a chance to model a strategy for himself (which is how to handle spaghetti night and feel good about it) and I am inspiring morale!

In the end, it’s not about spaghetti.  It’s about the energy I brought to the conversation.  I was stressed, and my child just mirrored that right back to me.  When I take a moment for myself, get in a better space, my son has the opportunity to do the same for himself, and spaghetti is no longer going to the dogs.

(Note:  The topic of punishment, behavior and Time-Outs is a rich one!  This is just one of many Time-Out examples.  Subscribe to Blog updates to get more techniques on working with your kids.)



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