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Three Reasons to Consider Giving Your Teen a Bed Time
Teenagers are in a weird in-between stage. They are becoming more and more independent with each day, and that is a good and God glorifying thing; however, they have not arrived at maturity and still need boundaries and wisdom on how to best glorify God with their lives. I think some parents have a tendency to check out a little bit, let teens make their choices and let them pay the consequences. Of course, not all parents do this; some are just trying to find that impossible balance between when to press in and when to give them space for independence. Time management might be an area to consider pressing into, though.
I've heard many stories over the past couple years about teens sleeping habits. One student is sleeping at school because he had stayed up until 4:00 am watching a movie. Another student is sleeping through classes because she waited until 10:00 pm to start homework and was up until the early hours of the morning working on schoolwork. As much as I'd like to say these are just one-off situations, they are not. I don't believe these stories are common because all these parents are negligent. Students are often simply being disobedient to parents who are trying to guide them into wisdom. Sometimes life has just changed at an incredibly fast rate, and parenting a teen is an overwhelming and incredibly hard task.
The responsibilities in a teen’s life begin to pile on at an exponential rate as they get older. They have harder and harder classes, jobs, sports, social lives and myriad other things they are trying to juggle. And what makes it even harder to see is that most of the things teens are juggling aren’t bad or evil things. The problem isn’t with a particular task or responsibility; they need to learn what to juggle and how to juggle.
Your teen does still need you. The need is different than when they were five years old, but they do still need you. They need a loving parent to enter into all this and give wisdom on how to manage responsibilities, time, and resources. They love to act like they don’t need you, like they have it all together, and they can do everything on their own. But they can’t. Anxiety, stress, and depression are almost a norm for teens today because they can’t handle it all on their own. And what is so beautiful and awesome about parents is that God has given you to your child as a gift, to guide them, encourage them, and strengthen them through this time.
Allow me to give a few reasons to consider pressing into the issue of time management:
1. Rhythms are healthy
We don't live in a culture of rhythms. We live in the always on, instant everything, smartphone era. It's a rare sight to see a student doing just one thing at a time. They are perpetually texting, keeping up with social media, playing games, doing homework, watching YouTube or TV, and pseudo-listening to a parent tell them their chores for the day; and they are doing (or at least trying to do) all these things AT THE SAME TIME.
A rhythm is a strong, regular, repeated pattern of strong and weak elements. I’d argue that we as people need regular repeated patterns of work and rest. So many teens, and if we’re honest, we as adults, want to try to accomplish as many things as possible at every moment. We try to work and rest at the same time. I want to watch Netflix (pseudo-rest) while working, which only leads to distracted work and no real rest. We end up not truly working hard and not truly resting. We are never actually working at 100% and never really resting at a 100%. This lack of rhythm isn’t healthy.
One of the major elements of rhythm is that it is consistent and regular. I think it's easy to fall prey to the seeming demands of a day and allow things to get out of rhythm. A student will think, "I don't have much to do tomorrow so I can stay up as late as I want, " or "I have had a hard day, I deserve to do something I want and stay up late watching Netflix." I know this because I think the same things at times. The big one here is the weekend. We think because it is a Friday night that all bets are off. The problem is every week we are throwing the whole sleep rhythm off for several days. Friday and Saturday night they are staying up dusk to dawn, waking up in the afternoon and then trying to get back into rhythm on Monday. This break in rhythm is also not healthy.
Consider helping your student set up regular rhythms of work and sleep. Maybe sit down with them and look at a week and see where you might be able to set up some consistent rhythms for big things. Don’t try to schedule out every second of every day, because inevitably something will throw it off and that can be more discouraging than helpful. Try to set up a few big priorities and leave some wiggle room for the random things that will come up. Finding a rhythm may take some experimenting and creativity, and that’s ok, but the conversation may lead to some helpful rhythms for your family.
2. Students can be prideful
Students will underestimate their responsibilities. Often they will forget about a test or quiz the next day and will underestimate how much work the next day will require. They will then determine that they don’t need a full night’s sleep because the next day will be easy. They are particularly prone to underestimate how much sleep affects their ability to think clearly and recall what they need to. Sleep is a physically and mentally necessary component for all our lives, but particularly to a student’s life as they are developing.
They will also overestimate their strength. They believe they are invincible and are more than capable of handling everything life will throw at them with a mere 2 hours of sleep. This thought process is foolish pride. No one is capable of running at 100% without rest. They may be able to wake up and function, but they are functioning far from a 100%. A student will eventually become ill physically or mentally if they do not allow themselves the rest they need.
We are all frail humans. God is the only one who does not need sleep and can handle everything perfectly. We are wandering into dangerous territory when we forget our fragility.
3. Sleep is necessary
All the research I can find shows that teens need around 9 to 9.5 hours of sleep. A teenager’s body is going through many changes and developments, and sleep is necessary for proper physical and mental development. That probably sounds like a lot of sleep because it is. It won’t be easy for most students to carve out that much time for sleep unless they have developed a good rhythm of working hard when they are working.