Get to Bed! Why you must unify children’s bedtimes and curfews.
A lesson to be learned: Back in 1991, Donna Forner and Bradley Gabriel of North Carolina had a child together. Ms. Forner and Mr. Gabriel were never married, and by the end of the 1990s, they were fighting over child custody and support. The court initially awarded primary physical custody to Ms. Forner because she was older than Mr. Gabriel, was married, more experienced and was caring for a step-daughter from another relationship. But then things went wrong.
Mr. Gabriel discovered that the child was consistently tardy in reporting to school. There were no bedtime curfews for the child, and in fact, the child’s mother had allowed a pattern of late bedtimes to develop. Because of the late bedtimes, Ms. Forner was repeatedly unable to get the child up in time for school. In September of 2001, after hearing the evidence, the judge transferred primary custody and the physical residence of the child to Mr. Gabriel.
The case is not an isolated incident. In fact, many parents going through a custody battle cannot agree on bedtimes, wake times, and nighttime curfews (inside or outside of the house). This is a mistake. Even if communications are strained, separated parents should strive to coordinate the bedtimes, wake times and curfews for their children. By prescribing one uniform rule in both households, the child is less likely to become confused by different codes of conduct and more likely to get to school or camp on time. A court can be asked to address this issue if – like Ms. Forner – a parent is unable to enforce a curfew policy. But the best policy is to reach an agreement between parents and to abide by it loyally. In fact – as I’ve noted in earlier blogs – the parent who takes the initiative to communicate about this issue and to unify the household policies concerning this issue is likely to score a few points with the court. Such a parent demonstrates an interest in “co-parenting” and reflects leadership in addressing the child’s behavior patterns.
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