Monday, July 29, 2013

College kids stay up late!

Many moons ago when I was still struggling to get my daughters to go to bed after "one more glass of water," it was hard for me to imagine a time when my kids would be responsible for setting their own bedtime and waking up without reminding.  One bleary eyed morning I was meeting an older friend for coffee and complaining about our nightly ritual when she shared with me that she canceled curfew for her 18 year old son.  Obviously way past having to tuck him in at night, she gave him the freedom to organize his evenings for most of his senior year. 

She said she would rather he learn the consequences of staying out too late when he was still living at home than when she was paying for his higher education.  In her opinion it prepared them both for his freshman year of college.  A little bit of Love and Logic for the older crowd!

College advisers note that many students are not successful their first year. Time management, sleep difficulties, alcohol, and skipping class are among the top ranking reasons why freshman struggle through this transition. Some kids have "senioritus" in college, with a huge academic consequence.  Part of learning in college is the real world stuff. No matter how late you stay up, morning comes at the same time every day.

I was horrified, terrified, and kind of excited.  The idea of not regulating bedtime forever appealed to me.   On and off for the next dozen years I remembered this sage advice.

So when the time came, I canceled curfew for both of my daughters as part of their 18th birthday celebration. We had lots of practice with "roommate rules" which included letting me know when you are home, the last one in locks the door, shuts off the lights, and everyone sets their own alarm. They each messed up, many times.  Since they were still living at home I made the coffee and enforced going to class so they could be truly miserable.  We repeated this lesson as often as necessary before their freshman year of college.  I learned how to fall asleep when my kids were still out at night, and return to sleep once they checked in.  I didn't have to nag, threaten, or ground them.  It was even kind of fun.

This partnership in learning was successful not because they did it "perfectly" but because they didn't, and they managed the accountability from home. Now that they are both past their freshman year of college they keep weird hours, but its all good.  Transitioning home for breaks means resuming the "roomate rules" that worked since they turned 18.  Now they don't have to check in when they come home, because I know they've got it figured out.  I rest easy.

It will be a long time before our bedtimes are in sync, but that's okay.  I still enjoy making coffee for them in the morning.


  1. I basically followed this rule with my daughter. It was easy with her, though, because she definitely hates to be sleep deprived. And the really fun part is seeing how fast they fall into the "old folks" early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine when they get an 8 to 5 job!

  2. It was fun for me too- there is no way I could've explained to them how to make the balance work, they just figured it out. So much more satisfying!

  3. Someone asked me recently what I would change if I had college to do over. The first thing that popped into mind was "I'd get more sleep." I plan to utilize this practice with my kids. The scary/good? part is that they will each turn 18 right after their senior years begin. A whole year to practice "roommate rules," right?