Good morning everyone! I cannot help but share again some
rules about sleeping and bedtime. I have been writing about
this topic for at least twenty years and realize the parents
are still messing up their children’s lives by not setting
healthy times to go to sleep at night. Some parents are
reluctant to set bed times for their children. Compared to
twenty years ago, and with the increase of electronic
gadgets, children are sleeping less and less and are having
more health and academic problems. Hence, here are some
rules I’ve presented over the years:
1. Rise before your children.
Parents are managers of the home. It is imperative that
they show loving, yet firm leadership by their own example.
Getting up in the morning before your child does is a good
example. Although there might not be a problem if a child
arises before a parent, the real issue is if the parent
appears to be lazy or undisciplined. Arising before the
child helps the child to understand the importance of
discipline and provide hands-on supervision and direction.
Don’t be a lazy parent.
Set bed times to allow each child to have at least 9.2
hours of sleep per night. The latest research indicates
that teenagers need at least 9.2 hours to satisfactorily
make it through the day. Eight hours is not sufficient time
to sleep for any child under the age of 18. As stated in my
previous article, teenagers who get less than 9.2 hours of
sleep a night generally do not do as well academically and
socially as those who get more than 9.2 hours of sleep.
Ideally, teenagers thrive best getting 10 to 12 hours of
sleep per night. This generation of teenagers is the most
sleep deprived in the history of humankind, and they are
suffering physically and mentally because of it.
When your children get the right amount of sleep, they are
more alert in school, less agitated, and healthier
physically. If your children are in primary school, they
need at least 12 to 15 hours of sleep a day. Set the bed
time for your primary school children to be the latest 7:00
p.m. For high school children, set bed time for 8:00 p.m.
or the latest 9:00 p.m. For the first five years of our
children’s lives their bed time was 6:00 p.m. They only
went to bed later when we were out visiting or at church.
It is extremely important to avoid connecting sleepiness
with the requirement of going to bed on time. Children (or
adults) are to go to bed on time regardless if they are
sleepy or not. This adds meaning to the request: “It’s time
to go to sleep.” It is a failure to train
children that they must let “sleep come to them” before they
go to bed.
3. Do not change the rules during holiday times.
Many parents make a big mistake by dropping all rules for
bed time and television watching during holiday times or
school breaks. The principle that must be instilled in
the minds of children is that discipline is not seasonal, it
is a lifestyle. Therefore, during holidays, it is okay that
children go to bed later or watch a little more television.
However, it is best to set reasonable times to go to bed and
how much television to watch. If your child goes to bed
8:00 p.m. during the school year, do not change that to
midnight simply because they have “nothing to do.” A few
weeks of going to bed that late will disturb the equilibrium
and nullify discipline habits. Adding one or two hours
later that normal to go to sleep during holidays might be
4. Prepare a healthy meal each morning.
Make sure your children, pre-teenagers or teenagers, get a
big, healthy breakfast every day. This is the fuel for the
day. If you are a vegetarian or meat eater, make sure the
breakfast is rich in complex carbohydrates (potatoes, whole
grain cereals, oatmeal, grits, yams, plantains, rice) and
protein (beans, eggs, fish, tofu, nuts). Eating whole
grain waffles, pancakes, patties, can be wonderful for
5. Control the television viewing times.
Most children do not do well academically or socially
watching television for hours every day. Do not let
television view rob your child of important sleep time.
Also, mixing school work and television is a recipe for
disaster for school-age children. Ideally, during the
school year, do not allow your children to watch
television. Let them concentrate on their school work and
wholesome recreation. If you feel the need to allow
television viewing during the school year, it is imperative
that the duration and when they watch be restricted.
SEE PART ONE
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family
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