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How much help does a 7yo need at bedtime?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Would you say it's reasonable to leave bedtime and bedtime routines/ practicalities/ logistics totally up to a 7-8yo child?

I have an unschooled girl, 7 3/4yo who has set her own bedtime (10pm), and on her own initiative asked for an alarm to go off at 9pm as a reminder that she should start with the bedtime preparation (teeth brushing, taking supplements, wearing pyjamas, brushing hair, drink water, use bathroom, etc). The aim is that she gets all of this done, asking for help where needed, and gets into bed for a story around 9:45, we read to her, have a snuggle and then lights out at 10.

She gets really upset if she's not ready for lights out at 10 on the dot, and she generally needs a lot of help staying focussed on meeting that goal, and getting all the things done that she needs to do beforehand.

Her dad and I are unsure how much input she should get at this age - should the initiative be totally up to her, and we wait for her to ask for help if she needs it, or should we be more present and directive with her?

thoughts/ suggestions?


post #2 of 15

I don't think there's a black and white answer of how much input or help she "should" need at this age.  Every kid is different, yk.  My best friend's ds (who is also my dd's best friend!) is 8yo and his bedtime routine is still very much directed by his parents.  I think he likes the company of having one of them there with him as he gets in pj's, brushes teeth, etc.  I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  My dd is younger (6.5yo), but I'm not sure there's a huge leap in development between that age and 7.75yo, and she still very much needs me to help her through the routine.  Like your dd she has trouble focusing and staying on task.  If I was there with her she's be off on a million tangents and wouldn't get to bed before midnight.  If your dd wants your help to meet her bedtime goal (10pm), and gets upset when she isn't able to get ready by her self-imposed bedtime, then I think it's totally fine and great for you to help her.  If she is interested in becoming more independent with the bedtime routine then maybe you could brainstorm ideas with her of things that would help her along.  The first idea that comes to mind is making a "bedtime routine" chart or list for her to follow.  I think, at this point, you can't go wrong either way - just follow her lead.  :)

post #3 of 15

What is her bedtime routine?  My dd's is shower, pajamas on, and teeth brushed which she does on her own (though I do have to kick her out of the shower after 20 minutes because the other family members in the house also want to have a shower).  I do have to tell her what time to start the routine but once I tell her that she is off and going.  Our situation is different though because I work full time and she goes to school so a late bedtime or only 15 minutes of books and cuddles wouldn't work because it would take away from the sleep she needs to have good days and from the one on one time with me that she needs to feel connected.  With unschooling the situation is probably very different because you don't want to feel like you are imposing anything.  If your dd seems to need you to take more of the lead though then that may fit in with it.  There is an unschooling board where they may be able to help you with that aspect. 

After the showering and getting dressed stuff is done we do the rest of our routine together.  We spend about 45 minutes reading and 20-30 cuddling and talking about random things that come to dd's mind.  Maybe you could talk to her about ways to make a shorter routine if she does a lot of things as part of her routine.  If not then I think you should either give a prompt for the next part or take pictures of her doing each part then put them up on a door so she can see what she can visually keep on track.  If the stories and cuddles are taking up the time then I think you should encourage her to get started on her routine earlier.  Perhaps she could take her shower while dinner is cooking or in the morning after getting up so she can have more time for the books and cuddles.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

I guess I was trying to be vague and non-specific so as to get unbiased answers.


What's happening is DD does need help, and she asks for it every day, enough that she shouldn't have to ask any more. Basically, she is fine with getting her own teeth brushed, but wants company in the bathroom while she does it. She's fine with getting into bed at the right time, but she needs direction, and someone to go with her. If she doesn't have a grown-up reminding her of the time and of what she has to do next, she'll stay up later than 10, which doesn't bother me in the slightest, but she gets very upset. The bedtime was her own choosing (she used to stay up much later when she was younger).


Normally this is fine, I have her alarm set to go off at 9, we go together and she brushes her teeth, etc, I lie with her and read her a story and she's asleep at 10.




I've been sick lately, and this job has fallen to DH - he doesn't mind picking up the slack, he even told his boss he'll be working less because I'm sick (he works from home). Thing is, in his opinion, he should not do anything to help her because she should do it for herself and kids shouldn't be the centre of family activities. He'll help her if she specifically asks, but her asking last week or even yesterday for help to know when it's bedtime and to remember her bedtime routine doesn't count as asking for help today, in his mind.


I disagree, I think she's made it clear she needs help with this, she gets really upset when she misses her bedtime, and she's only 7 - it's up to her parents to help her.


I just wanted people to say what they think about it without siding with me just because it's me.

post #5 of 15

7/8 yos. still need 10+ hours of sleep a night.  Does she get that by going to bed at 10 pm?  If not, her bedtime needs to be earlier, IMHO. 

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

A&A your post is irrelevant to my question, but thanks for your input.

post #7 of 15
Originally Posted by majikfaerie View Post

A&A your post is irrelevant to my question, but thanks for your input.

More relevant to your question, I would help her get to bed, and I would help her get to bed earlier. 

post #8 of 15

A&A, the OP is an unschooler, which means that they don't likely have any early morning commitments unless they are really wanted (in which case, the child would probably ask for an earlier bedtime.)


OP, my kid is only 6, but needs a lot of reminders with bedtime.  I have to tell her when to shower and when to brush her teeth and when to get in bed.  I was that way until I was probably 10 or so.  Dh on the other hand hasn't needed help from a parent in that way since he was probably 5.  Every kid is different and since your daughter is asking for the help, I agree that you should provide it.

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

thanks. I'm just having trouble convincing my DH of this - last night I was in bed (sick) and she came and asked the time - 10:05 and got really upset. then i got upset with her dad, who insisted it's not his responsibility to make sure she keeps to her routine. I just wanted some unbiased opinions as to whether he's right and I should also sit back and let her do it herself, or whether I'm right and I should insist that he get off his computer and help her out pre-emptively.


FTR, she usually sleeps till 8:30 - 9am and for her 10pm *is* earlier. Like I said, she used to go to bed much later, and she also slept much later. My child is a 'night-owl' and always has been, despite my best efforts. I've come to accept and respect how her body clock works rather than trying to mould her to fit society's expectations.

post #10 of 15

Have you tried talking to her about the problem and seeing if she has some ideas to fix it or readjust her time frame for bedtime?  Is your dh upset because she needs the help or is he more of a routine person and finding himself upset because her lack of routine means he will be pulled from something he is working on without any notice?  I personally love routine, as does my dd, and I would have a very hard time never knowing when my dd was going to want to start her routine if it meant that I would be pulled out of mine and face an upset child if her time frame wasn't met.  Helping my dd get ready at the same time every night would be no problem, but helping her at sporadic times when it fit into her routine only would be a big problem and I would make it something she needed to be in charge of also so that I could continue raising my child in the way that was important to me while also meeting my needs.  I think you should talk to him to see where his specific concern lies then work from there to help your child get her need met.  Perhaps making it a whole family routine at a predictable time that also meets your dd's time frame would make both your dd and your dh happier with the situation by respecting both of their desires. 


Also, I don't think that helping kids with activities makes them the center of the family, it makes them the children we love enough to help with activities they need or want help with from their loving and connected parents.  I think that the comment your husband made sounds like one made from stress and that it would be best to try to get to the root of what is causing him so much stress  that he views helping his children prepare for bed as such a negative thing.  It sounds like the problem could stem more from his viewpoint on life right now than from your dd's needs.  Stress really changes how we look at even the most normal situations.

post #11 of 15

I would, of course, help her because she wanted it.  But the occasional slip up might not be so bad in the long run (although I'd just as soon not deal with an upset child at bedtime).  It might help her be more conscious of the time and less reliant on others keeping track for her.  Anyway, we have similar situations come up, ds getting upset I didn't tell him what time it was (so he could watch a specific tv show) and me being grumpy dh didn't remind him since he was there and I wasn't and it was the usual routine.  I try to help ds as much as he wants/needs but figure the slip ups are learning experiences.  It's not fun dealing with the fall out, though.  Ds has learned over the years he can't count on dh quite as much.  He definitely has lower expectations of dh but they have a very good relationship none the less.


I don't think there is a clear cut right or wrong about not offering help before she asks for it.  Sometime I don't automatically do things for ds that I know he likes me to do for him unless he asks because every once in a while he'll do it without asking me for help.  He isn't an independent sort (likes company and lots of help) so I kind of like to give him the chance to do something first.  I'll tell him I'll help him when I'm done doing whatever I'm doing.  He can either wait for me or do it himself.  And sometimes he waits and sometimes he does it himself.  


But bedtime isn't the best time for that sort of thing.  

post #12 of 15

It could partly be that she needs your help to stay on task, but also that she enjoys your company for those "winding down" moments of her day. I think that's just as important as anything else. There will come a day that my DS doesn't want me to cuddle in his bed with him anymore, or sing to him while he brushes his teeth, and that will be a sad day for sure. Enjoy all those little moments while you can.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

It's not that DH is annoyed by having to help her; he doesn't seem to mind. He just has this belief that if she needs help then she should ask for it - the offer should *never* come from him. And what she needs help with is being reminded of the time and what she should do in the bedtime routine, as well as occasionally company while she's doing it. She's said this on many occasions, and 95% of the time, I do it with her. But I'm sick ATM and just can't get it together to help her all the time.


Re the bedtime/ routine, that is all DD's direction. She is by nature a night-owl, used to go to sleep between midnight and 1am (since she was a wee toddler she was like that and nothing worked to change it, and she slept till 10-11am). About 6 months ago she, on her own initiative, decided she wants to start getting up earlier, and on her own got the idea that to do that she should go to bed earlier, and on her own came up with the idea to set a bedtime alarm. Initially the alarm went off at 10:30, which worked great. Then she asked me to move the alarm a few minutes earlier every few days. Worked amazingly. Eventually it got too early, and we settled on 9pm. her alarm goes off at 9, she gets ready for bed, and is asleep around 10 without any bedtime dramas. :)


Except that between 9 and 10pm she needs someone to be with her and keep her on task and remind her of the time. and sometimes I can't do that.


Anyway, we talked about it today, and she came up with the idea to set a series of alarms for everything she needs to do. I even worked out how to take a voice recording on my phone and set it as the alarm. so at 9pm an alarm goes off that her voice saying "bedtime snack!" then at 9:15 an alarm goes off that is me singing the "brush your teeth" song. at 9:30 there's one of her saying "pyjama time!" then at 9:45 a little melody alarm tells her "story time". So it circumvents the need for DH to keep her on-task at bedtime (hopefully) though it doesn't stop me from being annoyed with him for thinking he shouldn't have to.


We shall see how this works.

post #14 of 15

That's a pretty creative system! If that doesn't work or ends up needing some tweaking, perhaps she could make herself a chart with all of her bedtime tasks on it. As she completes each task she can check it off/move a magnet/add a sticker, etc. That way it's a visual reminder of what she needs to do next. And let her know that if she wants company each night, she just needs to ask mom or dad. At 7, I think you could explain to her that she needs to ask each night that she wants company or help, and that one of her parents will be happy to help her. You can let her know that you will assume that if she doesn't ask for help that night, that she doesn't want any.


I hope you guys can come to a system that works for you. It might be worth having this conversation with her father since you have differing opinions, to make sure everyone is on the same page with the plan.

post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 

yep, she's a creative kid. I'll update to say how it's going.

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