Raising a self-rising kid

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

WASHINGTON -- One of the first lessons schoolchildren need to master is the art of getting up on time.

"When a child is 8, 9 or 10 years old, they should be able to get up and out of bed on their own," said Mona Shevlin, an assistant professor at the Catholic University of America and an educational psychologist in her private practice.

"Kids have to learn to be accountable. I find a lot of parents will drive their kids to school because they missed the bus. You have to look at the message that sends to their kids."

Children who struggle to rise and shine on time often simply need an earlier bedtime so they get adequate rest, she said. Younger children who don't rouse easily usually are just tired from a too-late bedtime. Or they may not be enthused about going to school.

Shevlin said she agrees with current research that indicates adolescents have a physiological need to to sleep later in the morning than early schedules allow. That biological need is often complicated by busy schedules filled with extracurricular activities, sports and homework, she said.

"Most of the kids I work with are only marginally awake for the first two periods of high school," she said. "That's why I always suggest that they never select any classes that are too demanding first thing in the morning."

You think your late riser won't get going without a bit of prodding?

"I had a boy who wouldn't get up, so his mother told him the next time he was late he'd have to wear his pajamas to school," Shevlin said. "Well, he was late again, and he wore his pajamas. And that was the last time he was late. He was embarrassed, he was humiliated, and he realized this is one of the necessities of life that you have to learn."

If you don't want to be that extreme, there are other "accountability tactics," Shevlin said. Don't provide a written note or excuse for the late-rising child. If it means detention, that may be what it takes to teach the value of being on time.

"Always explain the consequences ahead of time, not when you're mad," Shevlin said. "You might explain to the child, 'If you have enough energy to go to soccer or to play at a friend's house, tomorrow you'll have enough energy to get up in time for school.' Then they're free to make the choice. Which is what life's all about."

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