Originally Posted by waiflywaif
People should sleep when they're tired. On the other hand, kids (and some adults) don't always know when they're tired. Having a bedtime and a bedtime routine, provided that it's a sensible one that takes into account the child's schedule, can help provide the cues that "oh hey I am tired, it's time to wind down and let my body rest."
I don't believe in arbitrary bedtimes---in fact, if a kid is consistently taking a long time to fall asleep that should be a hint that they're NOT tired and that the bedtime needs to be later. I do believe in "bedtime" as a concept and in bedtime routines. To *me* there is something slightly sad about a child who just goes and goes until their body can't handle it anymore and they pass out on the floor. I am not saying it's neglectful, but to me (once again, just my opinion) the security and closeness that comes from putting a child to bed, with a loving routine, is priceless.
I pretty much agree with this. Bedtime was one of the greatest times I had with my parents; I remember my dad singing our special lullabye while walking back and forth between my sister's room and mine. But, I'm a certain kind of person (I thrive on routine), so maybe all kids don't enjoy it as much as I did.
I was that "doesn't know when she's tired" kid (and kind of am still that way). I needed my parents to tell me to go to sleep, or I became a cranky mess of overtired angst. I have a sneaking suspicion that my son is the same way. My sister, on the other hand, would ask to be put to bed whenever she was tired, starting pretty much as soon as she had the language to do so. I STILL have to force myself to go to bed at a decent time, even though I routinely get up pretty early, and my sister can still drop whatever she's doing and hit the sack whenever she feels the need. I have a sneaking suspicion that my son will follow in my footsteps (although at seven weeks, who really knows?)... my mom said that the only tiny baby she's ever seen who fights sleep better than Isaac was me.
One thing I love about my parents' approach to sleep, looking back, is that they and their friends rarely got babysitters when they wanted to hang out and stay up late on weekends. Adults would drink a few beers and play cards, and us kids would play outside or inside (depending on weather) until a slightly later-than-normal bedtime. Then we'd all get put to bed in the room of whichever kids lived in the house we were visiting. Usually we'd stay up for a while, playing, but would drop off only slightly later than our normal bedtimes. I was always the LAST one awake, of course.
I am seeing what I consider to be unwarranted judgment from the no-bedtimers towards the bedtimers. I understand that in a lot of other places in society, the judgment goes in reverse, but two wrongs doesn't necessarily make a right. A bedtime isn't necessarily an arbitrary parent-enforced-for-no-good-reason-other-than-parental-convenience rule, just like a kid up late isn't necessarily an oh-my-lord-those-parents-must-be-negligent kind of thing. I have friends (I use the term loosely) whose daughter stays up late, and, quite frankly, it's awful for her. She starts crying and screaming and tantruming and basically BEGGING to be put to bed, but nope. She only sleeps with mom, and mom's not ready to stop hanging out with her friends to put her to bed. My coworker's kids, on the other hand, regularly stay up late and thrive on it. When they show signs of needing to go down, she puts them down ASAP.
Bedtime can be done in a gentle, respectful way. No-bedtime can be done in a gentle, respectful way. Same dif', as I see it. Whatever works for your kids and family.