Should teenagers have a bedtime?

It’s 11 p.m. on Sunday night and my 17-year-old son is doing homework. He started it about an hour ago. A classic teen move, right? Staying up late and waking up early is definitely going to cause my son to begin his school week cranky. Once again, in this strange journey of raising teens, I am asking myself: Should teenagers have a bedtime?

I remember the first time I went to bed before my daughter, who is my oldest. It hit me at the time that I had a teenager, no longer a little girl who needed to be put to bed. That night was followed by many other nights where I have slipped into slumber WAY before my teens.

Most high schools start crazy early and teens tend walk through the hallways in a sleepy trance. On weeknights, I tell my son he has a bedtime of 10 p.m. Enforcing it though is a completely different story.


Some nights, I will pop my head in my son’s room over and over like a whack-a-mole mom reminding my son he needs to wake up early in the morning and should be going to bed. Of course, he says he is going to bed “in a few minutes” but continues to stay glued to his phone screen. Then, eventually I go to bed and have no idea what time he really goes to sleep.

The WORST is when my son hits the snooze button over and over in the morning because he went to sleep too late and can’t drag himself out of bed. At some point in time, I have played out this get-your-butt-out-of-bed scene with all three of my teens.

I remember the day I decided to let my daughter be responsible for waking herself up and getting to school on time. The first time she was late, she wanted me to call her school and say it was because she had a doctor’s appointment. I refused. That didn’t go over well, but it was her last time being late to school.

Ugh, the snooze button…

I know teens have ton on their plates between homework and extracurriculars and video games and Instagram. But isn’t managing your time a life skill that teens should figure out sooner or later?

Experts say teens should get 9 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night. Well, it’s not happening in my house, but setting a bedtime for my son — and enforcing it — has become too exhausting task. He might not be getting enough sleep, but since I gave up worrying about it, I am much more rested.

What are your thoughts on setting a bedtime for teens? Is it appropriate? If so, what time do you consider reasonable for teenagers?

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  1. Beth April 9, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Young teens need a bedtime set, but once they are of driving age … they are transitioning into all the responsibilities of adulthood and that includes deciding when to go to bed and get up.

    As a parent, I liked to point out nicely the consequences of not getting enough sleep. I had no problem saying, “Boy, you are cranky today. What time did you go to bed?” or “How was detention for being late today? Did you miss having lunch with your friends?” I believe helpful reminders that our behaviors overflow to all parts of our lives was a way to guide my teens instead of forcing issues down their throats. For me it worked. Maybe it will work for you.

    1. Donna May 5, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      I appreciate your advice however I think if I asked questions like the ones you suggest, I would sound condescending and knowing my daughter, she’d be resentful that I was bringing up the pain of the day. I am pretty sure she’d retreat and stop telling me her upsets at that point. I think since I am a single mom without another parent to buffer the situation it makes me extra careful about keeping her talking to me. I know that my sister did employ your method and things seem to have worked out fine so it’s really case-by-case, I suppose. 🙂

  2. Donna May 5, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    I appreciate your suggestion, however, I have a strong feeling that if I asked those questions, my teen would take it as condescension and stop sharing her painful moments with me at that moment. I like the idea of natural consequences speaking for themselves. Maybe because I am a single mother, I am hyper-focused on keeping her talking to me and not becoming resentful and shut down after having her faults brought up. (A personality trait of hers) My sister used a technique similar to yours, though and things worked out fine so it really is case-by-case. 🙂


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