A neuro-typical human (in this case a child) is capeable of doing away with arbitrary bedtimes.
Pretty bold huh?
Not really, you are a human and you know when you are tired (wether you listen to your body and get off the internet at 3am is a choice you have to live with). Babies can self regulate their sleep too (it’s super annoying, but they still do it). Parents are encouraged to follow the baby, rest when they rest, demand feed etc. I’m still wondering why it is that parents switch from following their baby to controling their child in really arbitrary ways at the most random of times… its kinda weird.
This bedtimes thing is a really good example. (Meals and eating are too, but will save that for another day 😉 ) here are some questions to ponder if you are in the headspace of controling your childs sleep;
Do you see your child as a whole human in their own right or part of an adult?
What drives you to decide on an arbitrary time to force a child to become tired and fall asleep at?
Do you fear they cannot self regulate sleep?
Were you sleep trained as a child and struggle with sleep as an adult?
Do you feel sleep training is needed by your child or would they eventually work it out?
Do you have the patience to wait that out?
Do you feel you are needed when it comes to regulating your childs sleep?
Do you enjoy that feeling to the point where you could be subconsciously seeking it?
Do you really need them out of the picture in the evenings or could they be left in a quiet space with books or a few toys to relax in their own way before falling asleep naturally in their own time?
Do you see controling bedtimes as part of a trusting relationship with your child?
If yes, is that true or are you justifying your need to control?
Do you genuinely believe trust is important in that relationship or are you comfortable without or with less trust?
If no then do you believe it is worth the deterioration of trust in your relationship to force your child to be going to bed “on time”?
Is that control satisfying your needs or theirs?
Do you feel you know when your child is tired before they do?
Do you think condition a child out of their natural sleep cues via sleep training, controlled crying or school age bedtimes only to end up having to manage it for them for their entire childhood is beneficial to your child?
Hope that has given some food for thought.
Me ‘n’ My Lazy
I do have some small inclination to self interest. I’ve heard people say things about natural parenting along the lines of “this is making a rod for your own back” …I’m 99% sure it is the other way around, I’m lazy, I wouldn’t do this if it didn’t make it easier in the long run, the effort of letting my children work this all out is in the quantity of patience it requires initially to get a workable solution. Once that is done. Bingo! Less work for me hehe. It’s a win win.
Cues and Tiredness
Tiredness changes depending on the quantity of activity for that day and how someone is feeling at the time? I’m a human just like my kids and that’s how it works for me. Even when one is a working adult tiredness can vary so using school wake up time to control when a child sleeps really doesn’t make sense unless you have already removed self regulation. A child may be conditioned to rely on someone else to name the feeling of tired and act on it for them (basically so they don’t have to think for themselves) but deep down they instinctively know what it is. This doesn’t mean they like the idea by the way particularly if they are also conditioned to think anything other than rest is very much needed by your body. (It’s actually a whole scope of trust that leads to a successful no bedtimes life but it’s a good place to start trusting your child again.)
Learning Self Regulation
So if you remove the controls, how do they learn? First up, they already know, their natural body clock just needs a reminder and this can take a very long time to get back. I’ve heard that camping or doing away with unnatural levels of light can help but I haven’t tested the theory. Aside from that, there are consequences to not having enough sleep, generally speaking people learn from consequences if they are allowed to freely experience them. The aparent privileged of going to bed when they choose helps them be aware of the logical consequences of their actions through trial and error over years of practice. Parents tend to be a tad impatient and don’t like the idea of kids taking the time required to work this out again, especially if they have kids who naturally are ok with less sleep. (We have one night owl out of three, life is a little different when one child is still up past mummies bedtime.)
Control and Fear
The mainstream view in the western world is one of control over other humans by placing their worth as greater than another’s, kids are just an easy target, we call that childism and just like every other form of prejudice, it’s immoral. It may be a survival instinct from our detatched culture. Though it really doesn’t make sense, it is much harder working against the child’s nature than with it. Control seems so counter productive when they are capeable of solving it themselves. Sleep control, food control, education control, even controling how others spend their precious hours on the earth… It’s all unnessassery, maybe that is the fear, your parental control is unnessary, you are not needed for such things, logical consequence is a far better teacher than another humans control and your lack of necessity to the situation is playing on your need to be needed. When you attempt to control another human they will resist, trust will suffer and they will suffer, you will too with guilt eventually. People die regretful of this misunderstanding of love. When you stop trying to control another’s time in their life and just love them unconditionally they will return the favour and forgive others for being human without resentment. Wouldn’t that be a nicer world?