Since I’ve started reading your blog, I’ve created an earlier bedtime for my two kids (a 4-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl). They used to stay up until 10, but now they’re in bed by 8 p.m. most nights, and it’s great. They’re less moody and much happier in the morning, and my daughter’s more attentive and happier in school. But my parents are visiting from out of town next week and we’ll be eating in restaurants and visiting all week. I know they’ll be up later than I want them to be. How should I handle this—and other “special occasions” that keep my kids up?
Though I’m a devoted fan of earlier bedtimes for young kids, late bedtimes happen. I liken them to special desserts. They’re for special celebrations and holidays (making them all the more cherished).
If kids get special treats every day, they’re not so special anymore (and they cavities and stomachaches to boot). Think of your child’s standard, early bedtime like his normal, healthy diet. Later bedtimes are once-in-a-while treats.
Here’s how to make “special treat” late bedtimes work for you:
- Vacation and holiday bedtimes should be no more than one hour later than your child’s normal bedtime.
- After a “special treat” later bedtime, don’t allow your child to sleep in more than one hour past his normal wake-up time. Doing so throws off that day’s routine and bedtime.
- Flexibility is great. But something is flexible only if it goes back to its original state. Otherwise, it’s just broken. So when you bend your routine to allow for a late bedtime, make sure to bend it back. A late bedtime that occurs more than three nights in a row is becoming a habit. Return to your regular routine as quickly as you can.
- If your child goes to bed ultra-late (for example, after a wedding or New Year’s), compensate with an early bedtime the following night. Do not allow him to “nap it off” with an overly-long daytime nap the next day.