It’s important to remember that one of the primary goals in parenting
is not to control behaviours, but to teach skills,
to inspire deep feeling,
to create a joyful spirit,
to instil powerful self-confidence and self-awareness,
to teach effective communication… And well the list goes on and on!!
I could fill pages with these deep and profound gifts I wish to offer my child.
I am hoping to encourage others to adopt this as the goal for their parenting as well.
I am less interested in when they go to bed.
I am more interested in them learning an intelligent relationship with sleep.
So they know their body, their mind and how sleep affects it.
Use Everyday Moments to Teach Deep Lessons
I never imposed a bedtime on my daughter.
It didn’t make sense to do so given the deeper goals I had in mind.
It made more sense to give her the responsibility for choosing her own bedtime.
This was not uninvolved, permissive freedom though.
It was done with communication, reasoning and
learning about the different issues to take into account when choosing when to go to bed.
So every night, when my kid goes to bed, she thinks about how she’s feeling, what she has to do tomorrow, what possible fun thing she is doing right now and what work she might have to accomplish before school the next day. She weighs the factors and decides when she goes to bed.
If she’s too tired the next day and isn’t happy then she learns a lesson and can compensate.
If she feels bad because she went to bed too early and missed a show on TV then she learns that lesson and can compensate the next time as well. I will discuss these lessons with her, but never impose upon her what she should be learning.
Decision Making Skills are Vital
Going through this process teaches her about her body and also helps her to learn effective decision making. Now she can balance the mental, physical and emotional benefits and costs and decide when to go to bed.
This is a decision making faculty that she carries over into many other areas of her life.
If I had imposed a bed time on her from when she was young she would not be so well and naturally versed in this skill. Instead we used bed time to learn about all the above elements.
Choose Education Over Obedience and Control
At each age this education looked and felt different.
But it was always there.
This approach works for many areas of life.
Homework, diet, physical activity, how to treat people and so many more.
In fact any time we’re tempted to impose our values on our kids it’s a good time to change the focus and teach them to explore and find their own values.
The self-knowledge this instils is powerful and long lasting.
And this is far more valuable than a disciplined bed time, meal time or homework schedule!