Bedtime battles

Every night it’s the same (as Twitter followers will know) – complete and utter exasperation at my kids’ inability to go to bed. 10.30, 11.15… I wish I was joking, but I’m not.

I count myself lucky that my kids have never given us sleepless nights, but what they’ve always given us instead is endless hassles in actually going to bed in the first place. I’ve never been that good at getting them to bed and maybe that’s where the problem started. Even as babies and toddlers they went to bed about 8.15 as I didn’t get home from work until 6. Somehow it just wasn’t possible to get them in bed any earlier.

By the time we moved house, nearly a year ago, it was common for my boys to be up until 10. I had high hopes for the new house. They would have separate rooms. They would be on a different floor to us – so wouldn’t be disturbed by the telly or people in the kitchen.

How wrong I was.

What they got instead was vastly superior to sharing a room in a bungalow. They got the ability to hide from us.

We have set bedtimes of course, but they are a complete joke. I don’t believe anyone has kept to them ever.

My daughter’s is 8.45, my younger son’s is 9 and my eldest’s is 9.30. My wonderful theory is that they will actually be in their beds 15 minutes before this reading. Yeah, right.

My daughter will sometimes make it to bed for around 8.45, but it’s often 9.15 or 9.20. My younger son will kind of make it there about 9.30 and my eldest is pretty much a lost cause.

PicMonkey clocksCollage, Bedtime, clocks

Once in bed, my younger son will usually be back out again several times and will often still be reading at 10.20. At this stage, my eldest will generally be sat on the edge of his bed, still fully dressed, watching TV and fiddling with his Kindle. I will remove the Kindle and his phone and tell him to go to bed. About 20 minutes later, he will come down for  a drink. I will look in on him as I go to bed and, more often than not, he will be under the covers reading with a head torch on. By this time it is somewhere between about 11 and 11.20.

My son is at that teenage stage where he is desperate to be as cool as everyone else. He wants to watch horror films and he wants to stay up late. He asks why he has to go to bed at 9.30, because everyone else goes MUCH later. I’m not sure that he’s noticed that he never, ever goes to bed at 9.30. To have him asleep by 10.30 is a rare achievement. I’m also not sure if he’s aware that teenagers lie. There are almost certainly kids his age who go to bed at 9 and are terrified of their friends finding out, so they say they go at 11.30.

At weekends and in the school holidays, they have later bedtimes. It’s 9.15 for my daughter and 10 for the boys. Theoretically.

At weekends, my daughter’s powers of procrastination really come into their own. She loves the XFactor (and any other sort of Saturday evening TV talent show) and there is no way we will ever get her into bed before the end of it. I suggest she at least does things like brush her hair and her teeth in the adverts so she is properly ready for bed when it finishes, but that doesn’t happen.

With all the kids’ sport, we actually have to get up quite early at the weekends, so I’m not sure we should even have special bedtimes. But what do I know? I’m only their mum. Nobody listens to me.

Apart from not being good for them as they’re clearly not getting enough sleep (it’s not easy to get them up in the mornings), it’s not great for me either. I spend my evenings walking up and down stairs moaning at them. I have tried ignoring them and leaving them to their own devices, but without my gentle reminders they will just go to bed even later. It’s not easy to relax or settle down to watch something on television with this going on, so I rarely do. And you know how lots of people who work from home work in the evenings? That’s never going to happen for me.

I’m fed up of it, it’s been going on for far too long, but I don’t know how to put a stop to it. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. poor you, it means you never get any time to yourself either! I’m guessing you’ve tried it already but you just remove a thing or privilege (permanently) until they start complying. (Blimey, that sounds a bit draconian..) it might make for a bit of a nightmare week or two but maybe… Or what is it that you do to get them to do as you ask when it’s not bedtime?
    Good luck!

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    • Thanks very much! You’re right, we don’t get any time to ourselves. Sadly my kids seem remarkably resilient when it comes to removing privileges – Xbox, pocket money etc. They will kick up a fuss before it happens, but when it actually happens they don’t seem bothered! Still worth trying again though!

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  2. Very interesting, we had a ‘Family Meeting’ last night and one of the items brought up, was bedtimes. At 8.45 and 9.00 for my girls, they thought this was incredibly unfair. I also don’t allow mobiles in bedrooms. However, I never make them turn their lights out at this stage and despite much arguing and tantrum throwing, we have agreed on 9.00 for the eldest with her mobile for half an hour and lights out at 10.00. My biggest bug-bear is that they’re not hanging around me after 9pm. I’ve had enough by then to be honest. Perhaps this is early by some standards but I’m not asking them to be asleep. At weekends it is half an hour later for everyone. If for some reason they end up in bed later then reading time just gets shortened as lights out should never be later than 10pm IMO, they need at least 8 hours sleep at this age, probably more. I can only suggest that you agree something sensible between all of you and if they don’t stick to it, then punishments are enforced e.g. no screen time the next day???

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    • That sounds like a very sensible agreement. My son has his mobile in his room, unfortunately, although I often end up confiscating it! He never used to use it until about a month ago, so I never needed a no mobiles rule. I want them out of the way by 9 too, but it never happens! Even my daughter is often under my feet at 9 🙁 We need to address it soon!

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  3. I like the idea of a family meeting and baselining bed time again and letting them “negotiate” a bit so they feel like they’ve had a bit of a say in it all?

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    • It’s a very good idea, I think we need to do this. We’ve never had a family meeting before!

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  4. I couldn’t do without my evenings and we are fairly strict with H’s bedtime, but it’s easier with just one. He does his best to stretch it too by making everything take 3 times as long as it has to. It would do my head in, so I don’t know how you manage.

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    • It does my head in! It’s the same every day and I’d love it to be easier, but nothing seems to change – it just gets worse!

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  5. On my God. Bed time. Eeerrrggghhh. I hate it. I never had a problem until the eldest started secondary school. At 13 and in Year 9, his lights are out at 10. But it’s not uncommon to get up for a wee or a drink of water 100 times after that. The 10 year old wants to stay up later and does compared to his brother at the same age- lights out at 9 for him but the difference is for him that dude snores as soon as his head hits the pillow.

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    • Your 13yo sounds quite similar to mine! My younger kids also have a later set bedtime than their brother did at their age – it was 8.30 until my eldest left primary school. Sadly none of my kids are asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow 🙁

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  6. I’m sorry I don’t have any suggestions but I can tell you how our bedtime goes and see if their is something you could maybe do similar? My children are not angels (as you may read in some of my posts) but I very rarely have a problem at bed time. I still have the occasional “I need a wee” “I need a drink” but never to an extreme that I don’t get evenings to myself.
    Both the 12 and 13 year old go to bed at 9pm. 12 year old goes straight in, lights out, sleep. 13 year old has 30 mins to read, write etc and then lights out. Neither have TV, games consoles, tablets, phones etc. Sometimes the 13 year old will have for her 30 minutes but then it’s taken away. Weekends, they both have until 10 – 10.30pm and then have to go up to sleep straight away. Sorry I can’t help more x

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    • That is really helpful, thanks. It’s good to know that 9pm is a normal bedtime for a 13yo. I think I probably need to remove more distractions from the kids’ rooms for starters. I don’t think we’ll ever get back to a 9pm bedtime though unfortunately 🙁 x

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  7. I can’t offer much advice on this as our bedtime routine was completely screwed when Abi died, my hub and I haven’t sat in our lounge of an evening since! But I would say try not to stress about it. It drives me mad too but the only way ours will sleep is if we read to them and if we are close by. I choose sleepy books. Screens are bad as they stimulate them but my daughter will sleep to a gentle film on DVD. Regardless of what happened, my son comes awake in the evening, like me, and sleeps in, like me. I think some people are like that, naturally. I’ve fretted about it before but not so much now. I’d try the family meeting and banning screens but say they can read or write for so long, hopefully they’ll soon be snoring! If anything, you’re not alone with this dilemma. X

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    • Thanks very much. Sorry to hear your bedtimes have been screwed since Abi, that’s really not surprising. It’s nice to read though that you just accept things and work with them as best you can – which is what I’ve been doing. It’s not ideal and I would like it to change, but if it doesn’t, I will just have to accept this is the way my kids are – they clearly don’t need as much sleep as other kids! x

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  8. They’re really not tired! I just don’t think they need that much sleep! We used to have a gradual wind-down until the Olympics! We used to start getting ready for bed at 7 (as they all took ages) and TV was banned after 7, but then we let them watch the Olympics and it’s been pretty much downhill ever since! There’s no wind down, just a lot of shouting and nagging from me! 🙁

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  9. I can’t really offer any advice as Harry is only 4. (I almost wrote 3 then!) But I do like the idea of a family meeting with a baseline bedtime then negotiation. I would also suggest removing distractions (TV, tablets, phone, torches – tech has a lot to answer for!) permanently until they comply. Perhaps put it to them that in accepting the times you lay down, shows maturity? I know my my often used that sort of line in order to get me to follow her requests.

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    • Thanks very much, I think we need to do this! They just have a complete disregard for the bedtimes and we need to get them back on track.

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  10. Aaron’s whole life he has gone to bed ridiculously late and it carried on throughout the Summer even though I was meant to be getting ready for September.

    Come September the early starts sorted it and on a good night he is asleep by 20:30 and 21:30 on a bad night, BUT Sunday afternoon he slept for 2.5 hours in the car so it was a very late one Sunday night (like midnight) but he still got up for school. Monday night I despaired and let Daddy do bedtime. Yesterday he once again slept in the day, this time in his uniform on the sofa after school, so last night it was about 23:30 when he fell asleep. When this happens though, I am at my whit’s end and don’t have an evening. Not that I’ve had one for long (2 months).

    We both need to resolve to get better at this, and have “the evening” that so many other people seem to have. I hope you find the solution.

    Liska xx

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