Choosing your battles

The other day I was having a discussion on Twitter with some fellow parents of teens about bedtimes. It turns out my kids go to bed a lot later than others. My daughter, who is only 9, is never in bed before 9 and is rarely asleep before 10. My 12 year old son usually goes to bed just before 10 and falls asleep very quickly.

My 14 year old son endlessly procrastinates and wanders the house – having a late shower, then getting  a drink etc etc and often isn’t in bed until 11. A few weeks ago, I decided to give up on waiting for him to go to bed and just go to bed myself. So I go to bed sometime before 10.30 and 11 – and if he’s still up, so be it!

I got the feeling others were frowning on this. I shouldn’t let this happen. I’m the parent. I should stop it.

But how easy is it to stop a 14 year old boy from doing things he doesn’t want to do? Not that flipping easy.

And I realised many years ago that my kids genuinely don’t need as much sleep as other people’s kids. They’ve always gone to bed on the late side (never before 8 even as babies and toddlers) and it’s worked for them and for us. Yes, I don’t get adult relaxing time in the evening. But maybe that’s not my priority?

Because there’s no rule book for parenting. We all do our best for our own families, our own kids and ourselves. What works for us won’t work for everyone. There may be things other families find acceptable which horrify me. But that’s fine. It works for them.

We have to choose our battles. Especially with teenagers.

Because if we don’t prioritise, life with teenagers really can be one endless battle. Bringing up teenagers isn’t a bed of roses, but it’s not (for me, at this moment) the worst thing in the world. I know what my son can and can’t do, what he will and won’t do, and we work with that.

There are rules and boundaries and he knows those. If he breaks them, he gets into trouble. But I won’t come down on him like a ton of bricks. It doesn’t work. Not for him and not for me.

There have been a couple of issues recently where we have felt he has let himself and us down. He’s very disorganised and fails to tell us when he’s going to be home and either forgets to take his phone out with him or forgets to charge it. I’ve lost count of the number of texts I’ve received from him from other people’s phones. There was an issue with honesty too.

With both of these issues, it would have been easy to go in yelling, with all guns blazing. How dare he let us down like that? How dare he be so thoughtless?

And what would have happened? He would have turned on us. Yelled until he was red in the face – probably with us yelling back. Then he would have stomped upstairs and slammed the door. There would have been tears. Maybe mine. Maybe his. Maybe both.

His brother and sister would have been cowering in fear. His sister would almost certainly have been crying too.

And I would have felt dreadful. For the rest of the day and probably the day after.

And what would I have achieved? Nothing.

The fall-out would have been way worse than the initial incident and he wouldn’t have learned anything.

So when we’re disappointed, we talk to him firmly, but calmly about what he’s done wrong, how he’s let himself and us down and how he needs to change that for the future.

Our priorities are honesty, taking responsibility, being organised and his education.

Bedtimes don’t matter. Not in the scheme of things.

We all choose our battles and how to fight them. It’s the only way to bring up a teenager to become the likeable, responsible adult you want them to become.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. My 2 teens (15 & 14) quite often go to sleep after I do, our 8 year old is in bed for 7.30 asleep by 8pm on school nights, weekends and holidays he’s up later unless I need an early night and I put my foot down. For me 10pm is late, my teens would disagree!

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    • My eldest certainly disagrees that 10pm is late! I’m very impressed by how early your 8 year old goes to bed though!

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  2. I agree, every family is different and what works for one wouldn’t for another. Z is in bed by 7.30 but then he natters for forever asking different questions, it’s usually about 8 to 8.30 before he’s actually asleep.

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    • It sounds like Z is very cunning! I think 8 or 8.30 is an OK time to go to sleep.

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  3. Quote
    “Our priorities are honesty, taking responsibility, being organised and his education.”

    Yes – pretty much ours too although on school nights we do have to insist on earlyish nights, especially with a school bus to catch that leaves at 7am. With too little sleep at least one son would find achieving those other priorities very difficult. And being organised does not have to include the pit formally known as their bedroom. School stuff is elsewhere and if they want to live in a hovel that is their choice and it’s one battle I no longer wage!

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    • I’ve given up on the bedrooms too, although my husband does have a nag about them from time to time. 7am is a very early bus!

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  4. Life with an 8 year old feels like a constant battle, I am dreading the teenage years.

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    • Oh dear! I’m lucky that my 9 year old is no trouble at all and my 12 year old isn’t bad either (although very disorganised!). Not sure how I will cope when I’ve got three teens!

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  5. I think it is important to remember that we all do what is best for our families – one of our priorities is definitely to ensure our children go to bed at a reasonable time. We have had to negotiate a later bedtime for our tween – but that is mainly because his peers are apparently going to bed much later. I shall not show my kids this haha. I am glad you are able to discuss things and sort out the issues.

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    • Thanks! I just find it impossible to get my kids to bed earlier, so have accepted I was fighting a losing battle and leave them to get on with it!

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  6. This is very timely for me. I was chatting to a parent about my daughter still getting up at 5am, despite the clocks going back a couple of weeks ago, and how my kids often wake in the night. She immediately waded in with how her 3 kids slept 7 til 7 from babies and how it sounded like I needed some serious sleep training. I was stunned. I thought unwanted parenting advice stopped once they were at school! My kids have never been sleepers, despite various attempts at sleep-training, including a sleep specialist. Every child is different, and as you say there are plenty of other more important battles.

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    • Yawn! People should keep their opinions to themselves! Every child is different – every child excels in something and struggles with something else. As families we have to work with our own children so that we can be as happy as possible. And that doesn’t mean following other people’s rules. Grrr!

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  7. Ah yes picking the teenage battles, which is something I am definitely learning. Its a huge parenting curve, and I agree that we all parent how we see fit with our own family. I have got more relaxed about bedtimes over the past few months. As you know my daughter is the same age as your daughter, and she is the one who gets up to god knows what when she should be sleeping. And whilst it used to stress me out, the husband reminded me that she always gets up for school with no problem. She just needs less sleep, and there is point stressing about that. On the other hand the teen needs his sleep, and thankfully he knows that. Great post Sarah xx

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    • Thanks very much! It’s good that the teen realises he needs the sleep. I used to yell at/ argue with the kids over a fair few things, but I’ve realised there’s not much point. In some cases, they will do what they want to do and it’s better to just leave them to it and only discuss the important matters.

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  8. I totally agree that some kids need more sleep than others and agree even more that we really need to let people parent the way they want to. We had a massive falling out here yesterday and life IS very stressful at the moment with my teens – GCSEs are killing me. But I need to back off and let her experience the consequence, before it destroys me first. I’m working on it but getting that balance between letting them know you’re displeased and disappointed but love then anyway, is so very hard. The least number of slanging matches you can have, the better! I think you’re doing an ace job. X

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    • Thanks very much! You too! I can see we will be heading the same way as you with GCSEs and I know it’s going to be really hard. In the end, there’s only so much we can do to encourage kids and in the end they have to take their own decisions and make their own mistakes!

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  9. I think you are quite right. Mine were in bed for 6.30 and asleep by 6.45 until they were about 8 years old, then went half an hour later until about 10.
    Time they were 13 and 14 upwards they were up till gone 9, and by 15 and up often in bed later then me, 10pm is late enough for me. Only rule we had was school nights they were in the house for 9pm and had to be showered and suppered etc and in their room for when I went to bed.
    As you say your rules work for you so why create battles.

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    • I like the rule of being showered and in their rooms for when you went to bed – that sounds very reasonable. My son often gets in the shower just after I’ve gone to bed and my room is right under the shower!

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  10. I can so relate to this and I agree that you should pick your battles otherwise you could be seriously battling all the time. Bedtimes are tricky, R and L are pushing at the moment and with I’m a Celebrity on, I have been letting them stay up later and I so miss that hour to myself, however, it does make bedtimes easier as they are more tired and there is less commotion when they finally go up

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    • I’ve realised that battling all the time is no good for anyone. My younger son is happy to watch I’m a Celebrity in bed on weekdays, which is good as it means he’s actually in bed at 9. I find with my daughter sometimes letting her go to bed later is easier as she seems to fall asleep at the same time regardless of when she goes to bed!

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  11. I think you have to go with what you and they can cope with. We are pretty strict with bedtimes so we get some down time, but I do let him get up early. Some people think I’m mad saying he can get up from 6am, but I can cope with that better than a disturbed evening.

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