“When does your four-year-old go to bed?”
This question recently popped up in my newsfeed from a mom belonging to a mutual Facebook group. A simple question, you’d think; but, instead, it incited a barrage of opinions and shaming between parents about the apparently-controversial “early bedtime.” While some moms responded that their pre-schoolers go to bed before the sun goes down, others reacted with disgust and suggested that parents who put their children to bed early are simply “selfish.”
I’m still LOL-ing.
If meticulously planning my family’s day – activities, meals, outings, and family-time – around a consistent, healthy, early bedtime that is recommended by pediatricians, then yeah, I’m selfish. In fact, I’m the worst.
Getting young children to bed by 7pm – amidst busy schedules, family dinners, homework, late meetings, and general adolescent defiance – can be quite a task. It takes work… and organization… and patience. So, I’m willing to suggest that it’s the parents who are getting their kids to bed early who are the least selfish; they are performing this sometimes-dubious task – despite its hurdles – because they know it is what is best for their child and for their family.
I have zero shame about my kid’s early bedtime. Here’s why:
An early bedtime is important for my child’s proper health: One of the best ways to boost our immune systems and fight illness is to get proper rest. My kiddo goes to bed at 7pm every night. He barely knows what a cold is.
An early bedtime is important for my child’s proper development: Among the multitude of research on the importance of kids’ sleep, a 2010 study by a California research institute found that getting less than the recommended amount of sleep (10-12 hours) was associated with lower scores in both literacy and early math skills. The data show that many children are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, which could have negative consequences on their development and achievement. The study’s lead author, Dr. Erika Gaylor, said that “getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children’s emergent literacy and language skills.”
The early bedtime gives me time to myself, and there should be no shame in that: The early bedtime allows me time to be me, rather than solely “Mom.” It allows me time each evening to be an adult and to rest and recharge and do things for myself – we all need this. Period.
The early bedtime changes dynamics between spouses: Because we have time together (just the two of us!) at the end of each day, my husband and I talk. We finish complete sentences. We make plans together and talk about the future. We have intimacy, because there are not teeny tiny ears about in the late evening hours when teeny tiny bodies should be getting healthy rest.
The early bedtime changes how are family is together the next day: Families in which every member gets proper nighttime sleep awake much more patient, present, and ready to cope with their environments (and with each other!) throughout the day. They enjoy mornings together (rather than sleepily and crankily going about the a.m. rush), and they enjoy evenings together (with pleasant family time, rather than exhaustion-related meltdowns).
There is simply too much compelling evidence that the early bedtime makes sense for children, for parents, and for family units as a whole, for me to feel one ounce of shame about my kiddo’s early bedtime. Early bedtime for children are not selfish, and they are not easy – but, they are a beautiful thing.