Question: My parents agreed that I can email you regarding a fight we’re having. My friends have bedtimes of 10 and later, and my parents make me go into bed at 9. I’m 12 years old and I should be able to stay up later. Basically, every night we argue and I go upstairs and stay up until 10 or later anyway. How can I convince my parents to let me stay up later?
Answer: Thanks so much for your email. First and foremost, I’d like to bring attention to the first sentence you wrote: “regarding a fight” you and your parents are having. Parents and children do not have fights. They might have discussions, or disagree regarding an issue, but, ultimately, the parents have the final say.
Your letter involves two different issues:
- What is the correct bedtime for kids?
- Does it matter what your friends do?
Let’s first discuss bedtimes. Last week I wrote that kids like to go to sleep late and wake up late. I was talking about teenagers at the time, and I made it clear that I didn’t agree with that schedule. There are two things that bother me about the lack of sleep. Firstly, what are you doing with these extra hours of awake time? If you need the time for homework, playing ball, learning, spending time with family or reading, I can understand. If you need the extra hours to play electronics, it’s more of an issue. Staying up late to play electronics, especially so close to bedtime, is certainly not helpful and can, in fact, make it more difficult to fall asleep.
The second issue I have with lack of sleep is that it’s not healthy. Growing children — and yes, you’re still growing — require sleep. There’s a huge debate regarding how much sleep someone your age needs. Some say as few as nine hours, others say 12 hours. It seems that the smart solution is to take this case by case.
If you would like to ask your parents for a later bedtime, the first thing you need to do is demonstrate that you are both capable and responsible. Here is what I would suggest.
- You need to be able to wake up on your own at the right time. Waking up doesn’t just mean getting out of bed; it means being completely ready and greeting your family with a good attitude.
- Don’t act overtired. This can include being irritable, getting annoyed easily, or even getting distracted constantly. I’m not saying that being moody is exclusively connected to lack of sleep, but there’s a definite connection.
- For now, go to sleep when your parents tell you to, and don’t make an issue of it. It might be frustrating for a few nights, but this will show your parents that you are mature.
After a couple of weeks, you can sit down with your parents to discuss the possibility of a later bedtime. The most important part of speaking with your parents is to talk respectfully — even if you’re not happy with the results. We’ve discussed in previous weeks the proper steps to having a conversation with your parents. No matter what you’re talking about with them, showing them respect is extremely important.
The second topic you mentioned in your question is regarding your friends. I’ve heard this complaint from hundreds of kids. “All of my friends have phones,” or “Everyone in my class is going,” and so many more.
It’s a tough argument to make. On the one hand, your parents put you in an environment in which all of your friends have something. Telling you that you can’t have it seems unfair. An example is if every child — and I mean every child in the class — has a cellphone, it’s pretty unfair to tell one boy he can’t have one. In other words, there are times that saying “all of my friends have one” is a valid argument.
What you’re forgetting is that these friends of yours have their own parents. Sure, they might have the newest iPod or go to a specific camp. However, they might also have to deal with things that you might not want to be involved with. The grass is always greener on the other side. You might think that they have the “good life,” but you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives.
Additionally, if you want to use your friends as proof, then your parents can turn and use that same argument. You want to go to basketball camp? Your friends aren’t going, why should you go? It’s a slippery slope you’re on. Besides, many boys that have tried this argument have found out that they’re actually wrong. One boy told me that everyone in his class had a smartwatch. His proof? They told him. Not that I’m doubting an eight-year-old boy who doesn’t know that he’s wearing his undershirt inside out, but I have a gut feeling that most of these boys don’t really have a smartwatch.
In other words, many times this is a pretty weak argument. You’re not necessarily entitled to something because other people have it. That’s not the way life works. Again, there are instances when you can use this approach, but the matter of bedtime is not one of them. If you want a later bedtime, prove to your parents that you are mature, responsible, and ready for it.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.