When Did You Start Letting Your Kids Stay up After You Go to Bed?

Updated on January 08, 2019
G.♣. asks from Springfield, IL
15 answers

I'm sure our 12 year old would be perfectly safe if I went to sleep and he stayed up. I think the only thing stopping me from letting him do that is knowing that he would likely stay up way to late. He's a bit of a night owl, and he always thinks he'll be fine on 6 or 7 hours of sleep. The thing is, he's grumpy as heck on anything less than 9 hours.

A part of me is wondering if it's time for him to simply have to live with the consequences of not getting enough sleep, but I do not want to have to deal with his grumpiness.

So I'm just wondering if there was a point in time when you just decided, hey, you need to figure this out for yourself.

Thanks!

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J.T.

answers from Dallas on

12????? Really? Once mine were old enough to have the sense to not run outside and play in traffic... so maybe 5? Now, that’s only on non-school nights. School nights, my 9yo goes to her bed at 8, my 12yo at 8:30, my 16yo at 9:00. The other three nights(we homeschool and don’t work on Fridays), my husband and I go to bed whenever... as do the Kids. Now if they’re loud, or we realize it’s really late(past 11), we might holler upstairs for them to go on to bed. They’ve gotta learn to self police at some point, that’s how I see it.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

When they graduated high school - seriously! At the younger ages, you have the concerns you have...they'll stay up too late, not get a full night's sleep, etc...not really a big deal. The problem is that when they get older and are in late middle school or high school, kids who know their parents go to bed before them are kids who have more opportunity to make bad choices and get in trouble. If they're at home, they might be online or on their phones into the wee hours of the morning (nothing good happens online at night!) or sneaking booze (or worse), sneaking a friend or significant other into the house, or sneaking out. If they're out and come home after you're in bed, they know they can come home drunk or high and go straight to bed with you none the wiser. I remember my friends in high school getting away with an astounding amount of stuff in high school while their parents were asleep. I also have friends who, when our kids were in high school, learned after-the-fact about things like sex or binge drinking that happened at their houses when they were asleep, or were woken up by 2 AM by another parent or the police calling about and incident that happened with their child who had left the house after the parents went to bed.

It might seem over-reactive now to plan ahead at age 12 for what kids might get into in 2-4 years, but this is when precedent is set. Sure, motivated teens can find ways to get around even the most vigilant parents but you can at least make it really hard for them by making sure that they know that you're awake and alert when they are. When my kids had friends sleep over and I knew they'd be up past midnight, I used to get up a few times and make my (very awake) presence known in the wee hours of the morning to discourage any ideas of getting away with anything. I'm more tired now with my younger kids...so far it hasn't been an issue because they sleep in the family room when having friends over and I can hear them turn in at around midnight but as they get older and stay up later, I'll probably just set and alarm and get up instead of staying up.

Tweens and teens need A LOT of sleep. Stick with encouraging good sleep hygiene, a regular sleep routine and a reasonable bedtime during the school year. We relax things a bit during school breaks and the summer but for the most part, enforce/encourage a good sleep routine even for teens.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

My husband and I decided years and years ago that we needed an hour (or at least a half hour) of "us" time on the couch during the week before bed. This meant that either kids were in bed or in their room for the night pretty early. Even in high school, my kids had a 10 p.m. during the week curfew so sometimes kids would be walking in the door as we were going to bed, but they had to go directly to their room, not ram around the house, cooking, snacking, watching TV (and we only had ONE TV in the living room, none in any bedrooms and we also had no internet at night :) ).

With 6 kids, no one was going to have unfettered access to ANYTHING while I was in bed at night. Kitchen closed at a certain time, TV was off at a certain time, house door was locked at a certain time. My kids all got healthy amounts of sleep, did very well in school, and rarely were grumpy due to lack of sleep until they worked, carried a full class load, AND played sports - even then, their good sense of sleep habit kicked in and made sure that they got enough rest when they could.

Good sleeping/resting habits are like anything else we teach our kids.

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S.M.

answers from Boston on

Very interesting answer from JB and she makes very good points. My parents usually were up as late as me and it did make a difference. I forgot. But I have to get up very early for work so do I always have to make my kids live by that schedule? huh. Luckily my husband is a night owl so so I guess I’ll make him be on duty when my kids are going out weekend nights. Right now they are 12 and 14 and the older one hasn’t started going to parties or anything. So recently I have let them stay up later than me but only on weekends. And I usually make sure they are at least getting ready for bed when I turn in. So I might offer your son some flexibility on weekends but I never have during the week and I don’t let it get out of hand on weekends. I’ve told them messing up their body clocks isn’t worth it. Same time, they’re kids and sleeping in late and staying up late are part of the luxury of being a kid. So I would let your son have some leeway maybe Friday nights. If he’s tired Saturday, make him go to bed on time
and he can catch up for school. Then I think at 14 or 15 maybe both nights. I am a huge stickler about sleep but also think they should have some freedom. I did at that age but slept in so much I wasn’t tired. Also worth noting is as kids get older, they can’t fall asleep early. My oldest tries to go to sleep so many school nights but can’t. It stinks. So if she wants to read, I let her. Some HS’s are starting later bc of that. Fortunately hers is one of them.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I think the best way to let kids learn how to manage their freedom is to actually give them some. We all see college kids who crash and burn first semester because they've never managed their bedtimes, assignments, meal choices, money, and invitations for booze and sex.

I think you start out with a weekend night when there is nothing major the next day. You can have some basic boundaries - no stove, no friends, no leaving the house, no using the fireplace, and so on. Have parental controls on cable stations and computers, of course. But if there are popcorn kernels and soda cans all over, well, then he learns the hard way about how very hard it is to clean up. That means vacuuming, washing dishes, collecting and rinsing cans for recycling (and oh, how much harder it is when food is stuck on after sitting overnight!), and cleaning up popcorn butter stains from the carpet. A tired kid who didn't get much sleep is just going to ADORE carpet cleaners and scraping caked-on gunk from plates.

You don't let him do it before a game, a test, a family wedding, or a holiday - but the surest way to teach him he needs his sleep is to let him be miserable when he doesn't get much. Life goes on and responsibilities continue - he can't take the night off and then take off the whole next day too.

You have to have a way to monitor internet usage, cable TV channels, and the doors. Simple parental controls and alarms will handle that. If he screws up, then you tell him he's clearly too immature to manage these decisions on his own. Set a target date of when he can try again, and a plan he needs to follow to regain your trust.

I assume you already go through any phone he has and supervise his computer. So go ahead and let him stay up, and while you should have some boundaries, it's not bad to give him a little room to screw up and learn the hard way.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

In high school our son would sometimes stay up late to finish school projects.
In college he certainly self regulates his sleeping time and nobody gets a lot of sleep during final exams week.
What does a 12 yr old need to stay up late for?
His friends should be sleeping and he certainly doesn't need more screen time.
Sleep is important.
If he thinks 6 or 7 hours is enough then you aren't finished teaching him about it's importance - have your pediatrician talk to him about it at his next check up.
In high school he can regulate his own bedtime more - 12 yrs old is too young to turn it over to him.

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B.A.

answers from Columbus on

My son is 7, and I recently let him start staying up later than me a few nights a week. Only if he doesn't have school or an activity the next door. I usually just tell him what time I want to go to bed and he always goes to bed at that time. I learned the hard way that it I don't tell him a time he will stay up all night.

I remember being his age, and I remember it was a big deal to me to be allowed to stay up after my parents went to bed.

Updated

My son is 7, and I recently let him start staying up later than me a few nights a week. Only if he doesn't have school or an activity the next door. I usually just tell him what time I want to go to bed and he always goes to bed at that time. I learned the hard way that it I don't tell him a time he will stay up all night.

I remember being his age, and I remember it was a big deal to me to be allowed to stay up after my parents went to bed.

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E.B.

answers from Denver on

I think that at age 12, a parent should be stricter on school days (well, most days, actually), but should relax the rules occasionally. For example, a Friday night when the next day doesn't require a lot of errands or team practice or big projects might be a good night to tell the 12 year old "you can stay up later tonight, if you'd like".

But at this age, they need to know that with freedom and independence come responsibility. They must be told that staying up doesn't mean eating an entire carton of ice cream and two bags of marshmallows. It doesn't mean that in the morning, there are popcorn pieces all over the living room carpet, and crumpled soda cans on the couch. It doesn't mean that they can watch or do things that are always off-limits in your home or family. And it doesn't mean that they have full license to be crabby or rude or too tired to do even the basic chores the next day.

So if you teach him that he can have some freedom on some nights to stay up later than you, with boundaries in place, and if he's generally responsible, I think 12 is ok. But you need to remind him that you are the parent, and on school nights, and nights before Little League practices, a good night's sleep is as important as a healthy meal. Sleep isn't a punishment - it's necessary for health.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

Needing 9 hours of sleep is going to become difficult soon, with high school homework loads!

But to answer your question - I think if it's "reading with a flashlight on Friday night" type stuff that's fine...as Elena says, as long as there is no popcorn trail or overtired rudeness the next day. But JB makes great points, at least for older teens, nothing good can happen after mom+dad go to bed (unless it's truly just something like finishing a research paper due at school the next day).

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Well, I'm in my jammies and ready for bed early because I get up at the crack of dawn because I like my time to myself before the chaos. And I like my time to myself before I go to sleep too - (that's me time). So my kids are used to me going to bed early. However, my hubby is a night owl. So he's up and around or at least kind of napping somewhere and then will get up and make sure everyone's tucked in.

Junior high, our kids put themselves to bed I think ... I'm trying to think back. I have one like yours. Some of mine need their sleep, and the minute their eyes get heavy, go to bed (easy and I love that). The one I have like yours - here's the problem. If they go past that tired time, they get that second wind. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Then it takes them forever to wind down.

The thing is, that's kind of a life lesson. They need to figure it out at some point. My kid like that is currently in high school and still hasn't. He's always has had a hard time with sleep - except for when very small when I tucked him in and very early bed time (and routine). So if your son is like that, he likely always will be.

Maybe start on a weekend or long weekend, and see how he does. The thing is, I value my sleep. So as long as they get up for school, it's on them. By the time high school comes around, they will have had to have learned how to do this. Mine work jobs and work late hours sometimes, or have late games or practices. I am definitely not staying up for that. Sometimes my hubby works late shifts and wouldn't be here, and I have to get up with little one. So .. it's a life lesson. He'll definitely learn and adjust.

It's one of those adjustment periods. There will be a learning curve and maybe painful for a short duration overall in the gist of things. Think of it that way. White noise helped for us (to fall asleep). Alarms that were loud in the morning ...

Good luck :) It does help with independence. Just make sure he has everything ready for next day night before.

3 moms found this helpful

T.D.

answers from New York on

Kids are 8 and almost 7. We do bedtime routine :snack, brush teeth do 20 minutes of reading aloud with a parent and then then it is supposed to be lights out. We retreat to our room and they are expected to go to sleep but rarely do they. We just holler at them to get in bed and get quiet. They eventually settle down and go to sleep. Usually before 10. If me or hubby is not feeling well we will be asleep before the kids settle down.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

from the time they were 10 and 14, when i started homeschooling both of them. it was important to me that they learn how to manage their time.

on weekends they both got to way younger.

some mornings when we had places to go they were grumpy. that was part of the learning process.
khairete
S.

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D..

answers from Miami on

Friday/Saturday nights, ok. But absolutely NO cell phones, computers or possible on-demand TV.

He isn’t old enough for “figuring this out” on school days. When he gets into high school and has a huge amount of homework, he will want to get more sleep, and that’s when he learns the lesson.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

My son has always been a tough one to get to bed as in he doesn't sleep well. When the kids were young, elementary school...bedtime was in bed, lights out, at a certain time after our routine.

We are now in the middle school years and we pretty much have a time they go to their rooms and what they do in them is up to them. They can listen to music, podcast, or audio-book but no other electronics. They have to self regulate. Most of the time it works well for them...occasionally they stay up too late and admit in the morning they won't be doing that again for a while.

Most of the time the 14 year old still has a light on when ours is going off. But he isn't grumpy in the morning. Our 11 year old needs her sleep and puts herself to bed pretty early usually by nine or nine thirty but she is an easy sleeper (she gets tired and goes naturally to bed).

I think each family figures it out. As long as safety rules are in place you should be fine with a 12 year old if he is responsible.

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E.M.

answers from Louisville on

My kids have stayed up latter than me since they were infants 😂 they are always up later than me I like sleep. They are 11 and 15 now

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