on getting a teen out of bed in the morning

My older son hates being told when to turn off his light at night, so we struck a deal: he can stay up late so long as he gets up when we tell him to. (And we are not people to slouch around on the morning. Up And At ‘Em is our motto.)

This has worked just fine until recently. Somehow the kid has gotten the crazy notion that he should also be allowed to sleep in as long as he likes. As a result, waking him up—at the reasonable and relaxed hour of 7:30, thank you very much—has turned into a battle involving multiple shoutings up the stairs and poundings on the ceiling above the dining room table (his bedroom floor). When he finally does heave his exhausted body out of bed, he moves about with such torturous sluggishness that it’s as though he’s still asleep, therefore defeating the purpose of getting out of bed in the first place.

“I don’t see why I have to get up so early,” he’d moan resentfully. “I wish you’d let me sleep as long as I want.”

So on Saturday morning, we did. He slept until 10:30 and then—to our uproarious amusement—spent the rest of the day fussing because we didn’t wake him earlier.

“I meant, Let me sleep until 8 o’clock, or something,” he whined. “Sleeping that late makes me feel like I lost half the day. And I can’t stop being sleepy.” Ha! I couldn’t have crafted a more fabulous learning opportunity if I had tried.

So now we have a new plan:

*He has to be alert and downstairs by 7:30.
*If he needs us to wake him up, he has to tell us. Otherwise we won’t.
*When we wake him, he has to say “Thank you.”
*If he’s late, he has extra math. (His choice of consequence. I was going to charge him money.)

Days One and Two were a success, so… here’s to energetic and cheerful mornings! [clinks coffee mug]

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (5.12.14) and rhubarb sorbet.


  • Anonymous

    If he doesn't have an alarm clock get him one. I did that when my kids were in school and they learned to get up when the alarm rang so I never had to yell at them or wake them up. We just got small battery powered ones. The batteries last a year or more and they can't use a power failure as an excuse.

  • Margo

    My 9-year-old is already having problems falling asleep at night before 10pm and then she is an impossible bear and a slug at the same time in the morning when she has to get up to go to school (out the door at 8:15 – pretty reasonable, I think). We don't have many ideas for handling it, so I appreciate the discussion about this.

    • Lana

      Any electronics in the room can be problem because of the EMF factor. This is a huge problem for me. Blue tansy essential oil has really helped me. I just keep the bottle on the night stand and do not actually apply it. Sounds weird but it is very calming for me and others I know. One of our sons really struggled with going to sleep as a child and I wish I had known to try it.

    • Anonymous

      Lana, have you ever used the tansy oil internally or externally? I was just reading a bit about tansy, and apparently it is quite toxic, so much that it is not advised for use without the supervision of an experienced herbalist. It sounds like the energy of the plant has helped you simply by proximity, which I've heard about other plants as well. Maybe for such a powerful herb, proximity is the only thing needed?


    • Lana

      I am trained in applied kinesiology and my testing of it shows to just keep the bottle on the night stand and the frequencies that it emits will do the job. I have never even opened my bottle.

    • Lana

      Another thing to consider for sleep is to put the head pointing north. That can really help and the body is able heal better that way too. One friend always felt like her head was falling at night and putting the head of her bed pointing north stopped it immediately.

    • Margo

      fascinating. My daughter has no electronics in the room whatsoever and almost never any screen time. Her bed/head already is pointing north – it's a tiny room and that was the only position available!

  • Becky

    Mine has always, always been a late sleeper. As a toddler she slept gloriously, deliciously late, so as a teen, not much has changed. She's never been much of a morning person, but thankfully, the change in the start time of the middle school this year from 7:30 to 8:20 has made a huge, wonderful difference in our mornings. Getting her out the door to school that started at a time she has never once been awake on her own for was painful. I let her sleep in on weekends and I find if she's been running hard, she'll get caught up, sleeping incredibly late, but most of the time, she's up about 8:30 or 9.

  • Rebecca

    My daughter never really exhibited the teen shift in sleep habits but it was like a switch flipped when my son turned 13. He can easily stay up until midnight, comes wafting down around 9 and doesn't talk to anybody until 10. For whatever reason, this isn't a battle I've decided to fight. (Oh, I know the reason. 'Cause I need the early hours to gather strength for all the battles I WILL be fighting. 🙂 )

  • Anonymous

    Don't teenage bodies tend to have wake/sleep rhythms that are later than younger bodies? And didn't you just recently quote a book that said something about the effects on the brain of sleep deprivation? 🙂 I did not appreciate being punished by my early-bird dad for not getting up early enough when I was a teen…

    I'm curious why it matters so much to you that he doesn't sleep later than your preferences? Does it impact your day that much? I have children who regularly sleep much later in the morning than I do, and I've adjusted my schedule accordingly — my quiet time without children is morning, and we plan activities for afternoon and evening.


    • Jennifer Jo

      There was a lively discussion on this topic/post on my Facebook page (including one childhood friend reminiscing about the time she slept over at my house and my mother woke her up by bringing a goat into the bedroom!)—to summarize:

      In response to one reader pointing out the fact that the teenager sleep cycle is later: "I am fully aware of those studies and totally agree! Teens have a different sleep cycle (though it's minor—just a shift of an hour later, right?) and I'm fine with my kids sleeping in later in the morning. They are homeschooled after all! My son gets, on average, a good 9 hours of sleep a night. He just doesn't want to get up because he's unmotivated for the day (chores, studies, etc) and likes moving slowly."

      And in response to another reader countering the argument with the observation that farm boys have been going to bed and getting up early for centuries: "I agree about sleep being a societal issue: both the deprivation and weird scheduling of it, what with busy evenings and homes filled with screens and lights. My son's primary issue is learning to budget his time, as well as learning to respect other people's schedules and needs, too."

      For the most part, everyone in our family is inclined to rise early(ish). I'm willing to adjust my schedule to their needs but only up to a point. I have needs, too. It's all about compromise and being a team player.

      And as for our particular situation: my son isn't a genuine late riser. On the sleep spectrum, we're all pretty much programmed the same. It'd be a different story if he really was geared differently, I suppose…

  • Anonymous

    If he slept until 10:30 it was because his body needed the sleep (from earlier sleep-deprivation?) If he doesn't relish sleeping that late, he needs to know the only way to "fix" it is to go to sleep earlier. Sleep is very important to good brain function, so if he's going to do extra math, it's good if he gets the full 9 hours of sleep!

  • Suburban Correspondent

    Wait a sec – did you start making him turn out his light at 10 or so, since he wasn't getting up on time? Or does that just not work, because he won't fall asleep anyway? I know my 15-year-old won't fall asleep at 10, even if I restrict evening computer usage, etc. And he whines about getting up at 8, but he isn't too much of a bear about it (yet). As they get older, I just try to make sure there is something they HAVE to get out of bed for early (a class, a volunteer project, a job) or the bedtimes/wake times keep skewing later and later.

    • Jennifer Jo

      He usually turns his light out at 10-ish, but sometimes as early as 9. He just likes (and rightly so) the autonomy and independence. And when he has work to go to in the morning, he has zero trouble waking up.

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