Many mothers have different ideas about wake times. I’m going to share here what works for me, but feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt if it’s ‘not your style’. Some parents welcome their children hopping into bed with them in the morning and enjoy waking up alongside them. Personally, that sounds like a fun thing for holidays, but wouldn’t work for my daily life at all.
It’s really important to me that I wake up early (before my kids do) and tackle a few things before they join me. I’ll read my Bible over coffee, unload the dishwasher, start the laundry, exercise, answer some business-related emails, and sometimes write a blog post all before breakfast. Despite how much I love my family and social life, there’s a part of me that needs a bit of quiet and alone-time each day. Often times, the morning hours are the only time that happens. (Read more about my morning routine here)
Of course, to be able to accomplish all that, I need to have a predictable wake time for my children. It gives me peace of mind knowing what to expect and it’s healthy for all of us to get enough sleep. I know a lot of Moms complain about their children waking up at ungodly hours (5am anyone?). Personally, that would never last long for me. I would fall to emotional pieces very quickly and the rest of my day would be spent in survival mode instead of relaxed productivity. Peaceful-Joyful Mom would have to fight tooth-and-nail to overcome Grumpy-Worn-Out Mom. Haha. Just admitting my weaknesses, here.
There’s no doubt about it. The way my day starts sets the stage for the rest of the day. And so for me, my kids wake-up time needs to be predictable and at a time I’m comfortable with. If you start training them from their earlier months, it’s not a very hard thing to maintain. If you start late, you may have a bit of a battle on your hands, but to me the reward has been worth it.
Here are some tips for teaching your children to sleep longer in the morning.
1) Establish the ideal wake time.
For my boys, after they’re about 6 months of age, I know they are capable of sleeping 11-12 hours per night. This means if you put them down at 8pm, they are fully capable of sleeping in until 7 or 8am. Since Dad often works evenings around here, their bedtime schedule is often 9pm to 9am so they get to see him at night and I can stay up later with him (and sleep in later) myself. I know some families who do 6pm to 6am. Whatever works for you! The important thing is that everyone (your kids and you) gets enough sleep.
NOTE: If this wake time thing is entirely new, try extending their wake time incrementally toward your new goal. If they’ve habitually been waking up at 5am, aim for 5:30 for a few days. Then go for 6am, etc. Be firm and hang in there. Usually it only takes 2-4 days for a new habit to develop.
2) Keep the room dark.
Seriously, get some thick curtains. If they wake up early, you don’t want them knowing the difference from 2am and 6am. Which brings me to my next tip…
3) Treat early waking like middle-of-the-night wakings.
If you want them to sleep until 8am, but they wake up at 6am, don’t just let them hop out of bed and start roaming the house. Go in, nurse them if they’re a baby, fix up their blankets, or do whatever you would normally do in the middle of the night. Keep your voice down and try not to stimulate them too much. Once you’ve tucked them back to bed, just leave.
4) The toddler bed is a privilege.
Teaching your child to stay in his or her bed until you give them permission to get up is a trained, but valuable skill. It will give you peace of mind while you shower in the morning and make training them to sleep later much easier. If my child is too young to understand that, I’d keep them in the crib.
NOTE: If you have a second child needing that crib, use a pack n play. Buy a second one if you need to. It’s well worth the investment.
5) What happens when they wake up just 30 minutes early? So… they’re *almost* there, just not quite.
Waking up a bit early is treated differently than when they wake up a lot early. If I just want a few minutes to finish up my exercise video, I’ll go in and slip a few picture books in with the toddler or some toys in with the baby. I still keep the lights down and the environment calm, but I have the peace of mind knowing that they’re not entirely bored. The ability to stay in bed, even while looking at books, still develops self-control skills.
6) Don’t feel guilty.
This tip shows up a lot, doesn’t it? If there’s anything to remember, it’s this: You’re not establishing a wake-time just for you. THIS IS NOT SELFISH ME-TIME. This is so you can start your day off with the right priorities (reading your Bible and prayer), be a healthy (by exercising), well-rested mother (by getting enough sleep), and prepared (by setting up your home for the day) so that you have every reason (and no excuses) to embrace a joy-filled and low-stress day FOR YOUR CHILDREN.