bedtime is relative…

We don’t have a bedtime at our house. For us, bedtime is literally just the time someone goes to bed. There is no arbitrary time for us. We’ve encouraged our children to listen to their bodies and point out cues that we notice in order to help them recognize those signs that their bodies are tired.

Our second child was born not too long after we moved here. A coworker of my husband’s asked him what time our kids went to bed. At the time, they were generally going to bed around midnight. She exclaimed how horrible we were to keep our newborn and two year old up so late. She couldn’t understand that bedtimes are relative. Our children didn’t have to be up early to go to daycare. They were expressing their own rhythms, which just so happened to allow them more time with their father after work.

Over the years, we’ve noticed that our children seem to have patterns. We will fall into a pattern for a while, going to bed around the same time for a few weeks. Then something will change and the pattern will shift. We’ve gone to bed as early as 9 PM for a few weeks and as late as 1 AM regularly. Neither extreme generally lasts for long, and they find themselves reverting back to going to bed sometime between 10 PM and 11 PM.

I’m certain there will be wider shifts as they get older. I’m glad that we have the flexibility to accomodate their needs and to encourage them to listen to their bodies.

4 thoughts on “bedtime is relative…

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  1. We’ve done something like this before and run into a problem that you may be able to help me with.

    My son, who is now 3 1/2 has always been challenging when it comes to naps and sleep. He has a hard time giving his body the rest it needs during the day. We’ve tried to establish a quiet/nap time where we wind things down and read books, etc. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. He knows he’s tired, will say he’s tired but not stop to rest. I’ve never required naps, but I want to help him learn to give his body the rest it needs…. any advice?

    Bedtimes have typically been easier as long as we actually set a bedtime and accompany it with a winding down routine. I want to give him the chance to find his own rhythm without an actual bedtime, but we’ve run into the problem before of being tired (and falling asleep) before he is…. how do we work with that? I don’t work, but I have to be up with my 4 month old now who still follows his natural rhythms without a bedtime and is regularly up at 7.

    1. We follow our children’s cues. I’m sure you start recognizing your child’s signs that he is tired, even when he may not yet. When I start to see those tell tale signs with my young children, I offer activities that I know help settle everyone down – books, cuddling, nursing, etc. It’s easier for all of us to calm down for bed with certain activities. If I miss the cues (or sometimes try to finish up something I’m working on), I often find myself waiting for that second wind to pass and the next window to open up.

  2. We are all night-owls and everyone’s getting enough sleep and enjoys their day. The neighbor kid came over every day in the summer wanting my kids to be up and saying they were “lazy” to sleep in. I explained they stayed up hours later than he and therefore slept later but he didn’t get it. I eventually told him the word “lazy” was a rather unimpressive one from my perspective.

  3. We don’t do bedtimes either, and we have 6 kids. Allowing them to manage their body’s schedule and respond to its cues and signals is probably one of the most empowering gifts parents can give a child. Forcing someone to sleep, or wake up, against their will, by contrast, is probable one of the most dis-empowering things. Kudos to you for explaining this so simply.

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