Roll out those lazy, hazy days of summer! Those days of soda and pretzels and… exasperated parents groaning, “How do I get my kid outta bed!?”
Ah, adolescence. When the biological clock turns kids into night owls and day sleepers. Nothing drives a hardworking parent crazier than a teen who thinks the sun rises at 2 p.m., takes 90 minutes to shower, and is ready for breakfast about the time their parents get home from work! That list of chores you wanted done? “Oh yeah, I forgot.” Sometimes, it seems like your only choices are:
- Turn into a screaming mess and scare them into taking out the trash.
- Give up any hope of getting any work out of them and do it all yourself.
- Understand your teen’s developmental stage, pick your battles and problem-solve together.
‘A bad battle to pick’
Yep, you read it right. Remember how you used to make sure that you always got your kid home for nap time? Because little kids need their sleep (and parents need their sanity)? Well, so do teens.
According to Michael Gurian, psychologist and author of “Boys and Girls Learn Differently,” adolescents need about 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night to allow their brain to go through necessary cycles to grow, mature appropriately and learn.
OK, then they should go to bed at 9 p.m., sleep until 6:15 a.m., get up and put in a good day’s work like the rest of us! Well, not necessarily. Gurian says, “Certain parts of the brain are experiencing accelerated growth that is natural to late evening. Forcing the adolescent to go to sleep when he or she is not sleepy and the body is not organically ready to sleep is…a bad battle to pick.”
Respect their vacation, within reason
We want our kids up because we’re up, and we want them to be productive when we’re productive. During the school year, that may be feasible, but during vacation, we can flex a little. Does it really matter when the chore gets done, as long as it’s done? Can trash go out at 7 p.m. and still be just as “out” as it would’ve been at 10 a.m.?
Flexing must have limits, of course. Stuff does need to get done, after all, so problem solving with our teens, instead of dictating instructions to our teens, is more likely to yield positive results. (My out-of-bed limit was 10:30, so my son and I agreed that I would leave a phone beside his bed and call him, since he tended to sleep through alarms. He had to go rattle some dishes in the kitchen to prove his feet were on the floor, once we established that he was awake.)
The power of choice
Make a list of chores that have to get done throughout the week. Those are the expectations. Allow teens to schedule the time for completion and then determine together how to maintain accountability.
This is known as power sharing: Teens have the power of choice; parents have the power of boundaries. Son wants to go to a party Tuesday night? Not a problem, as long as the Tuesday expectations were met. Daughter wants to go to the mall with friends? Happy to say yes to that, if the activities she agreed to do that day are done first.
“But I can do it tomorrow!” Teens can be great procrastinators and even better lawyers, and they can argue their case until you get mad or give in (or both). Don’t take the bait! Give them a smile and a hug, throw an “I love you” in for good measure, and repeat as many times as necessary, “As soon as you meet my expectations, I will be happy to release you for fun stuff.”
Be kind, firm, consistent
Our kids’ lazy, hazy days don’t have to drive us crazy, if we have a foundation of positive relationship. We build relationship when we allow teens to have power within developmentally appropriate boundaries, and then hold them accountable for their choices with kindness, firmness and consistency.
Eventually, they will learn to manage their time so they get what they want and we get what we need. Heck, they might even (sometimes) get out of bed before noon!