(this article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas)
Don't tell my kids I told you this because they would be mortified; my children go to bed at a ridiculously early bedtime. And by ridiculously I literally mean their classmates would have every right to poke fun. Some days they are in bed so early the sun has barely set.
The idea for an early bedtime struck me when I was a new, overwhelmed mom. I had survived the day with my endlessly curious and extremely talkative child and I needed a break. I needed the day to be over. I needed that sweet precious child of mine to go to sleep so I could have just a moment of downtime. She was wearing me down.
Then I had two kids. Then three. Then five. Suddenly bedtime was not just the time of the day when I could catch a break. Bedtime was my one and only chance to rejuvenate before the next day's onslaught, er, I mean adventure.
Also, the earlier the bedtime the more my sanity stayed intact.
It's not easy getting children to bed. It's sorta like getting a cat to take a bath. But that didn't stop me. I developed routines that the children looked forward to. Bedtime became a cherished ritual in my children's mind. Little did they know mommy was collapsing on the couch in a near-vegetative state after the last story was read.
Fast forward a few years, I no longer have little tykes and yet my children still go to bed relatively early compared to the norm. And it's still one of my favorite times of the day.
It turns out that my survival skills have created healthy sleeping habits in my kids. Not only do I get the peace and quiet I desire every night but, call it coincidence if you must, each of my kids also do very well in school. I'm convinced that a good night's sleep predicates a successful academic career.
If that's not reason enough to convince you to establish an early-to-bed policy keep in mind that children who get a good night's sleep are more likely to wake up well rested. Well rested children aren't crabby in the morning which means hassle-free mornings and star behavior. Who wouldn't love that?
How many times have adults said, "I wish I had that kind of energy!" about a child? Heck, I fall into bed every night and I didn't even do half the activities most kids do. Can you imagine how much more their little bodies and minds need to sleep?
Now that another school year is well underway there has never been a better time to establish a healthy, early bedtime. Otherwise Science class gets nicknamed 'Silence' class and story time becomes naptime; both of which are very true examples as well as tempting sleep opportunities during the day for exhausted children.
I know kids don't want to go to sleep at night. I know they prefer texting, television and Facebook. I know extra-curricular activities and varying homework loads often prohibit early bedtimes. I also understand that children get more active the more exhausted they become thus giving the appearance that they are not tired. Nonetheless, most doctors recommend school age children need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep each night. And since children aren't going to put themselves to bed at a decent hour if given the choice, it's up to the loving parents to see to it that they are tucked in each night.
Listen, early bedtimes benefit everybody. You get an hour or two (or in my case four) to yourself every night for whatever you want! Be productive or lazy. Who cares? The point is each evening can be bliss. While you're enjoying some "Me Time" your child is getting the much needed sleep he needs. It's a win/win. So for the love of the Sandman, put your kids to bed. You'll be happier. They'll be happier and believe me, your child's teacher or daycare provider will be happier too. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!
Stephanie is a Parenting Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and is available for personal or phone consultations to area families. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.