21. A healthy amount of sleep. This was a specific issue at our house because both Rhonda and I are night people. But our night owl approach was not a good fit for our kids. We became more sensitive to sleep issues when we made the connection between lack of sleep and some of the negative attitudes in our home.
Children often see bedtime as a rights issue, arguing to stay up longer as a function of their age. Or parents sometimes use bedtime as a punishment platform sending ornery kids to bed early. We tried to focus on bedtime as a health issue. We stressed that we all feel better physically and emotionally when we get enough sleep.
I also caution parents in regard to the health side of good sleep, that adolescents need to get their sleep. Just at the time they feel like they can burn the candle at both ends, in reality, they need an appropriate amount of sleep to fuel their growth spurt. Making sleep a health issue instead of a rights or punishment issue can take some of the wind out of their argumentative sails.
As an aside and a “shout out” to our Alaskan friends, I blame spending the early years of our marriage in Alaska as the cause of all our sleep dysfunction. When it doesn’t get dark in the summer, our biorhythms are thrown way out of whack. We would find ourselves working in the garden on a summer’s evening and wonder why the kids were dragging their feet only to realize it was 11:00 PM and still daylight. Or I wondered why no one else was mowing their yard on a particularly nice evening until I noticed it was 10:30 PM and they were probably in bed and wishing I was as well. You might think we could make up for our lost sleep in the winter, but by then we were going to work in the dark and coming home from work in the dark and working for employers who couldn’t care less about our biorhythms.
In short, we will parent best and our children will handle their many stages of growth best when we value our sleep.