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How Many Nights Out Are Too Many for Teens?

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I decided to let my daughter break my one-night-out rule -- and lived to regret it.

teen girl sleeping

Sarah Bowman: My daughter spent three weekend nights out last weekend, and was consequently a WRECK this week at school. Friday night was a movie with her boyfriend, after watching a playoff soccer match at school. She was home by curfew but up again at dawn, since she had to be at an SAT practice test the next morning. 

So by noon on Saturday, she was already running behind in the sleep department. Saturday night was dinner and a sleepover at her best girlfriend's house -- and although she got some studying done in the afternoon, she also spent a long time figuring out her outfit for the evening. Turns out, there was a house party across the street from her girlfriend's, so I'm sure the girls stayed up way too late (in their cute outfits) and then giggled the night away once they were safely home again.

She had sports practices and homework all day Sunday, so I should have known better than to let her go out Sunday night. But she said it was "just a quick dinner with my Fab Five" -- her very oldest and best-est girl pack. I'm a sucker for loyalty to the ties that bind, so against my better judgment, I assented to a third evening. My bad.

Has she been tired and weepy all week long? For sure. Was I kicking myself on a daily basis as I shook her awake each morning from the deepest slumber? I swear, 6:30 AM reveille is rough duty with teens. I think it's fair to say that my daughter understands that she went over the limit, but she's too tired -- and too behind -- to really discuss it. So why, after years of having strict rules, did I blow my own steadfast mandate of ONE night out per weekend?

First of all, rules are made to be broken -- and when better to do so than when your kid wants to spend some quality time with her friends? Since I hate how much stress junior year has imposed on my daughter, it felt good to give her some leeway to relax. But: The one-night-out-per-weekend rule was created to provide for a regular and reliable family dinner. My husband and kids and I managed to squeeze in a family lunch this past weekend, but it felt like a cheat.

Blowing off steam with your friends is key to mental wellness. It's true at any age. But downtime is key, too. My problem was that I didn't know which event to deny my daughter. Each seemed equally important. Maybe I have the mind of a teenage girl, but I couldn't bear for her to pass up that yummy time with friends or the date with her boyfriend. I should have found a way to deny her the party -- but if you think that's an easy task, you've never had a face-off with a stressed-out, friend-deprived teenage girl. 

Come to think of it, though, that's no worse than coping with the ornery, overtired teen I've been living with all week long! Note to self: Stick to the one-night-out rule next time the fur flies.


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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
b March 4, 2010, 7:20 AM

And why is it that none of these activities couldn’t have happened at your home? Could her boyfriend not have come over and watched a movie? Could the slumber party not have been at your house? Could the grilfriend reunion not have taken place in your dining room? I hardly ever went out more than one night a week growing up, but that had less to do with having a stifled social life and more to do with the fact that my mother made our home “the kool-aid” house where kids were always welcome, and where kids always wanted to be. (And there were no drugs or alcohol in the house at all, nor did we have the biggest tv, newest game system, hottest newly released movies, or even a whole lot of room, but she made our house the one everyone wanted to be).

Iris Arenson-fuller March 4, 2010, 8:48 AM

I “get” parental desire to be a “good guy” and to have teens feel we understand. I have been there. It often backfires though. I do think occasionally some rules are meant for breaking and inflexibility makes us miss a lot of quality times in life. However, if you don’t have priorities straight, how will your daughter? Important school and family responsibilities need to come first. You have used this as a spring board for learning and it would be helpful to encourage your daughter to do so also. Sit down with her over a snack when she is rested and not cranky and ask her to reflect on the week and her mood and level of performance. Ask her if it makes sense for you to let her repeat this and if she were in your shoes, what might she do? Ask her to suggest what might be a plan for outings and socialization that will serve her better than what happened during the week in discussion. See if you can make some trade offs in the future…”I will give you this, if you do that…”Be firm and don’t negotiate once the contract is created except under very dire circumstances. That’s what I think!

Anxiety In Teens March 4, 2010, 2:06 PM

very helpful thanks

Anxiety In Teens March 4, 2010, 2:07 PM

thanks for sharing

Anonymous March 4, 2010, 4:09 PM

Don’t feel too bad about it. We were all teens once, and at that age, you always want to be somewhere doing something with friends. She may have stretched it this weekend, but in the long run, she’ll learn to balance friends and other responsibilities in a way that doesn’t leave her drained. Sometimes it’s okay to bend the rules a bit (only the safe ones!) - you’re only a teenager once.

Anxiety in Teens March 13, 2010, 12:20 PM

Great article, thanks for sharing!

Anxiety in Teens March 13, 2010, 12:21 PM

Great article, thanks for sharing!

Felice May 19, 2010, 9:44 PM

Just saying, but has she never gone camping for a weekend, or visited friends in another town or something? I mean, I always suffer from fatige after those myself, but I find it surprising that she’s never done a single thing to get used to it, and this is apparently the first time you’ve broken that rule.

Sorry if someone beat me to all that.

Betty Peffley July 25, 2010, 10:15 PM

@John I totally agree with that point

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