Sadia found her kids reading under the covers after bedtime and had to balance maintaining discipline, encouraging reading, and ensuring adequate sleep. From

Sleep Challenges, Big Kid Edition

Posted on
Categories Books, Discipline, Older Children, Overnight, Sleep

When I went to check on my daughters last night before I went to sleep, I found J’s Kindle lying on top of the covers. It should have been under her pillow. I sought out her 8-year-old twin M’s bedtime reading and found her book under the pillow, but on the opposite side from where I’d seen her put it at lights out.

When it was time to get up for school, J was the first to wake.

Me: J, have you guys been reading after I turn the lights out?

There was a long, pregnant pause. J sighed.

J: Yes. Yes, we have.
Me: By flashlight?
J: How did you know?

I had to laugh, loudly enough to wake M.

Me: Because I used to do the same thing. Thanks for being honest with me. I know you were tempted not to.
J: You did it too?
Me: I did.
J: What did your mommy say?
Me: She never caught me, but my Nanu (maternal grandmother) did.
J: What’d she say?
Me: That she used to do it too, but by candlelight or moonlight. And that sleep is important.

We shared a laugh. This time, M wanted to know what we were laughing about.

Me: M, I know about your reading by flashlight.
M: Am I in trouble?
Me: Do I look mad?

She studied me.

M: No, I don’t think so. Why not?
J: Because she did it too!
M: You DID?
Me: I did.
M: Mom!
Me: I know. But here’s the thing. Sleep is important. Sleep is when you form your memories and…
J: What memories?
Me: All your memories you’ll keep forever. Everything you’ve learned and everything you’ve seen and your friends and silly things M says. Your brain needs time to rest and recuperate, and so does your body. A lot of the chemical in your body that tells you to grow is made while you sleep.
M: Did you have to stop?
Me: Well, my Nanu didn’t tell, but she made sure that I got more sleep, because I was tired.
M: Do we have to stop?
Me: Yes.
J: (disappointed) Okay.
Me: You have plenty of reading time. We can try to adjust things to give you more reading time. But you need all the sleep time too.

M handed me the flashlight she’d just dug out from under her pillow.

I’m not sure I handled this the right way. Perhaps I should have been harder on the children for actively misleading me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have confessed my own childhood disobedience. Maybe the consequence of not respecting bedtime should have been the loss of reading privileges.

I really didn’t want to punish the children for loving literature. I didn’t want to make them afraid to admit their mistakes to me. I didn’t want them to feel that it was safer to build lies upon lies instead of coming clean.

Our bedtime check-in seems to indicate that I made the right choice. When I asked J what she’d learned today, she answered, “I learned that I can’t get anything past my Mommy. I have lots of examples! Like reading… and wearing perfume… and brushing my teeth.”

What would you do if you discovered your kids reading after bedtime?

Share this...Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Tumblr0Share on Reddit0Digg thisShare on LinkedIn0Email this to someone

Published by


Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

4 thoughts on “Sleep Challenges, Big Kid Edition”

  1. My eldest (now 9) is a perennial sneaker of extra reading minutes. She also is an erratic sleeper and absolutely rotten in the morning, so getting her into good sleep habits has been important to me. That said – I set a terrible example by reading way past my own “bedtime”- and she’s caught me at it many times. SO what to do?
    I love your detailed explanations of the importance of sleep. We also discuss time management as a whole – how the hours and minutes you spend on one thing take away from those you have left for others. It’s a tough concept to internalize.
    My husband and I have slowly but surely changed our bedtime expectations to allow for not only read-aloud-together time with the girls, but also “after tuck in” reading time. As the 3 girls have grown, they are capable of staying up later. Instead of bumping back bedtimes we’ve given them additional “quiet in bed” minutes. Now my 4th grader is in bed with lights out at 9pm, but can read or journal til 9:30 by her booklight, flashlight or Nook. My other two are lights out at 8, but have til 8:30 for stealthy reading and writing in bed.

  2. Oh my gosh, I would *really* have a hard time with this because I have been an avid reader for so long and for so long I’ve read well into the night. I can remember sacrificing precious sleep during high school to get in just ONE more chapter. And I even did it in the weeks after the birth of my son. Friends would say “What are you doing?! The baby is waking every few hours, how can you read?! GO TO SLEEP!” So I guess I’m trying to say I have no idea what I’ll do when my son is older and (hopefully) loves to read. But thank you for putting it on my radar!

  3. What a great problem to have, in the grand scheme to problems to have. I too, was a reader-by-nightlight as a kid. My mom enticed me to stick to my bedtime by rewarding me with allowance or something, but I think you handled it perfectly. I would definitely not want to squash any love of reading. Maybe earlier bedtime (with time for reading built in, as Katey mentioned above)? :)

  4. Sorry for the late comment, I’ve been catching up on posts but I have to say I’m a BIG reader. My mom jokes that in elementary school, I wasn’t able to be punished by staying in from recess, cause I would read. I got in trouble for reading during class several times and also in 1st grade was sent to 3rd or 4th for reading. I would also try to stay up late reading. I love your relationship with your girls, Sadia. Seems like you have a great mutual respect with them. I found this blog cause I followed one of the former bloggers. No kids, but I love multiples.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge