How to Teach your Kids to Sleep Later for a More Predictable Morning
Are you longing for your kids to sleep later? Or at least wake up at a predictable time?
Do you feel like it’s an unattainable fantasy to have morning time to yourself before your kids are out of bed?
Well, I promised in last week’s post that I would share how I get all three of my kids to go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time, so I have a predictable time in the morning.
Does that sound like a dream to you?
Maybe you want to drink coffee and watch the news again.
Do some email and pay bills before the day starts.
Read your Bible.
Put on some workout clothes and get your sweat on.
Go over your lesson plans and make sure you’re ready for the day of homeschooling ahead of you.
But you can’t.
Your kids wake up at all different hours of the “morning.” Or worse, they wake up multiple times a night for various non-emergent reasons (obviously excluding babies here).
Either way, you just can’t get any consistent, predictable morning time to yourself.
Why Your Kid Gets Up Too Early
I know the feeling of being mystified about your kids’ sleep schedule.
No matter what time they go to bed, they wake up at some insane hour and they are ready to go for the day.
Why don’t they want to sleep? Wouldn’t we all give anything to be told to sleep as long we felt like it??
Your kid, like much of America, has a fear of missing out.
He feels like sleep is a huge drag and he is going to miss out on something amazing if he doesn’t rise and shine the minute his eyes open.
Why in the world would he roll over and go back to sleep if he could be playing with toys, watching TV, hanging out with mom and dad, or eating some cheerios?
I continue to be shocked to see this in even my 8 year old still.
She shares a room with her 5 year old sister. The 5 year old will occasionally wake her up by accident and my daughter will sleepily walk downstairs and collapse on the couch when she could have slept for another hour.
When I tell her she could have rolled over and gone back to bed for as long as she wanted (we’re homeschoolers over here), she just groans.
I know she thinks there is chance her sister is going to get something and she doesn’t want to miss it for sleep.
2. No sense of time
As an adult, I’m sure you’ve woken up, checked your phone and said to yourself, “Yikes! It’s 4am. I need to roll over and go back to sleep.”
You know that if you get up at 4am you’ll feel terrible later in the day.
You know how much your body needs quality hours of sleep.
You just know that 4am is not an appropriate time for you to get up.
Your kid – does not have this filter at all.
When his eyes fly open, he has no idea what time it is and he doesn’t care.
If his eyes are open, that means it’s time to get up and he is ready to get going with the day. If it’s dark outside, that’s just a bonus! He has more time to do whatever he wants!
Your kid does not have the maturity or the ability to grasp time the way that you do.
Why Moms Need Their Kids to Sleep Later
Some people (who are not going through it) may laugh off sleep issues and chalk it up to an occupational hazard of parenting.
I strongly disagree.
You do not have to live like a sleep deprived zombie or be starved of life giving alone time in the morning because you are a parent.
More importantly – you really shouldn’t.
Parents who do not have time to recharge their batteries appropriately will eventually start to find cracks in their:
- health – mental and physical
- relationship with their spouse
- relationships with friends
- relationships with their children
- systems – unorganized and frazzled
Yep, an exhausted mom who is not getting predictable morning time can breed a bitter heart towards even their children.
You are just human after all. Frustration, lack of sleep, and isolation can start breeding some sad things in parents.
On top of that, you are trying to homeschool your kids. If you don’t have adequate time to plan lessons, the energy to teach them, and time to take care of your own very real needs – you are going to crash and burn your homeschool into the mountain of being a “self-sacrificing mom.”
Why Kids Need to Sleep Later
This sleep problem isn’t all about you either.
Kids are at a huge disadvantage when they are not getting appropriate sleep.
They too will suffer consequences, such as:
- poor health
- decreased emotional regulation (i.e. increased tantrums)
- more whining
- less energy
- decreased motivation
- problems with learning
Doesn’t that sound like a secret sauce for homeschool implosion?
***For more information on signs of decreased sleep and how much sleep your child needs, check out this very informative article at AboutKidsHealth.com.
Does this all sound like your situation right now? Do you feel like you could have written this article? But don’t know what to do next?
Hold on to your seat, mama. This is going to change your life. For real.
How I stumbled onto making my daughter sleep later
The way I found this sleep hack, was absolute dumb luck.
My oldest daughter was 2 0r 3 and sleeping through the night.
I wanted to transition to a “big girl bed,” but I was so worried that she would wake up at random hours in the middle of the night.
I imagined her sneaking out of her room, floating her toys in the toilet, playing with the knife block, or choking on something in the pantry while I peacefully slept upstairs.
I did some research on Amazon, and ended up buying her this Stoplight clock:
It was a smashing success in more ways than one!
The best part is that I have used (and continue to use over the past 6 years) this clock with my other 2 children and it has produced the same results – kids who go to bed and stay in bed!
How to Train Your Kids to Sleep Later
1. Buy your own stoplight clock
These are relatively inexpensive and very sturdy. I still have the original one that I bought 6 years ago and it works like the day I first plugged in.
That’s pretty remarkable considering it has moved to 3 different houses and been taken on many trips with us.
Check out the Amazon link here – Stoplight Sleep Enhancing Clock
2. Make sure your child knows their colors and understands consequences
It is imperative that your child is old enough to understand colors (just red and green).
They also need to demonstrate they understand consequences (i.e. if you hit your sister, you’re going to time out).
Children who are too young to comprehend these things are not ready to use the Stoplight clock.
***A note about toddlers and babies:
If you have a child under one with sleep struggles, I would highly recommend looking into a Zipadee Zip. This little sleeper saved my with my middle and youngest child!
If you have a kid climbing out of the crib, but who is not ready for the stoplight clock – stop reading this post and order a sleep tent now. I bought one out of desperation at 2am one night and it is one of the best purchases I’ve made in my parenting life.
3. Teach your child what the lights on the clock mean
Show the clock to your child and explain that:
“Red means stay in bed and Green means Go.”
Practice that little saying with them a few times until they’ve got it.
I have also used role playing and pretending with my kids to really ensure that they understand what the colors mean.
Like a game of Red Light, Green Light, you can have them pretend it’s bedtime and hold up something red or green and ask them what to do – “stay in bed or go?”
Kids love games, and this is a great way to make the clock seem fun!
4. Do a practice run with the clock
If your child is still napping or has a regular quiet time during the day, this is a great time to use the clock for the first time.
Set the clock using the instructions and show your child that the light is red – so that means stay in bed (or their room).
Explain that when the light turns green, nap or quiet time is over.
For best results, set the clock to turn green quickly so that the child is encouraged by the new clock and understands how it works with minimal frustration.
***The clock does not make any noise, so don’t worry about it interrupting a nap.
5. Plan for incentive/consequences
If your child comes out of his room (for something other than the potty of course), you need to be consistent about sending him back to bed until his light turns green.
My children staying in bed all night is both a safety issue and a physical health issue, so I am willing to provide incentives and consequences to motivate my children.
You know your child best, so you know what would be an appropriate motivator. Whatever you decide though, it needs to be an immediate thing in the morning.
Here are some examples:
“If you stay in your room till your light is green, you get to pick whatever breakfast food you want! But, if you come out of your room while your light is red, you will have to go back to your room and mommy will pick your breakfast food.”
“If you stay in your room till your light is green, you get a sticker from this cool pack of stickers! But, if you come out of your room while your light is red, you’ll have to go back to your room and you don’t get to play the iPad that morning.”
There needs to be an immediate incentive and consequence for the child every morning.
It helps with that FOMO issue – the child will actually miss out on something cool if he gets up too early. Rolling over and going back to bed starts to be an attractive option.
My oldest child never questioned me on the clock – she just stayed in her bed till it turned green. My other 2 kids definitely toed the line and needed to know exactly how serious I was about this sleep thing.
You need to be consistent with the consequences, and your kids will quickly see you mean business.
6. Important tips for the first night
The first night that you use the clock, be sure to set it for before your child is usually waking up.
So if your child has been getting up at 5am, you need to set the clock for 4:50am.
Because your child needs to wake up and be encouraged – the light is already green!
“I did it! This whole clock thing is pretty cool!”
Once your child has experienced success with the clock for a few nights, start very slowly (like 5 minute increments) setting it for later and later.
This will help to slowly reset your child’s wake time.
Ridiculously Awesome Benefits from Using this Stoplight Clock
We have followed the above steps with all three of our kids and it works!
I have also shared these tips with friends and family who want their kids to sleep like my kids do – and it works!
After doing this faithfully for 6 years, check out the awesome benefits of a predictable wake up time for all three of my kids.
1. Predictable morning
All three of my kids have clocks in their room and they are all set to turn green at 7am.
That means my husband and I know that when we wake up early to get things done – we will always have the same predictable amount of time.
Even when my kids wake up a little early, they know to stay in their bed until their clock is green.
So we have time to wake up, drink coffee, get work done, work out, shower and get ready for the day.
Just this week, my husband was talking to me about something and I told him I didn’t have time – it was 6:58 and I only had 2 minutes to finish my makeup and get dressed before my bedroom doors burst open and my three kids tumbled onto our bed.
I know down to the minute every day how much time I have in the morning. I can’t express how much that helps me to be an organized, happy, and productive homeschool mom.
2. Easier travel
When we travel, we absolutely take the clocks.
Again, it’s a safety issue to me that my kids are not getting up at random hours and exploring unknown places. This gives them a lot of security and a firm boundary that they respect.
I love being able to enjoy morning time and having kids who are rested despite the way that travel can mess with our schedule and routine.
3. Happier kids who have slept
My kids are not perfect, of course, but we have a pretty fun household.
I attribute a lot of our home atmosphere to the fact that all three kids have firm boundaries for sleep.
When just one kid is overtired for various reasons, everyone can suffer the fallout from tantrums, whining, etc.
4. What is Day Light Savings Time?
Every year I see parents crying into their coffee about the pain of daylight savings time.
I don’t get it.
The night before daylight savings time, I reset the stoplight clocks.
Then my kids get out of bed when they turn green the next morning.
End of story.
No crazy shenanigans at 5am over here.
Recap Teaching Your Kids to Sleep Later
You may be imagining yourself sending your adorable child to their room in their sweet PJs and feeling like a real jerk.
My child needs me at 5am, I should be there for them…right?
I hear you.
But, you already set your boundaries for your child out of love:
- Don’t run away from me in a parking lot
- Don’t grab the dog’s tail
- Don’t put dirt in your mouth
- Don’t watch too much TV
- Don’t use naughty words
- Don’t eat too much sugar
Training your child to stay in bed until an appropriate wake up time is just one more appropriate boundary you are setting.
Your child, family, and homeschool will be blessed with the peace, calm, and predictability that comes when everyone is getting the sleep they need.
Interested in more ways to rock your homeschool morning?
Check out my “Start Your Morning with Awesome!” checklist! It is all my best tips that will help you shine your brightest when your kids come downstairs to start the day!
You will go from hiding behind your coffee cup to singing “Good Morning!” to them (yes, I am that kind of mom now 🙂
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