“Please pick your head up off the desk and pay attention.”
“You need to get more sleep at night.”
These words can be heard in classroom on almost a daily basis. The teens struggle to focus, suppress yawns, and fight to keep their eyes open. Students are tired. Many are tired all the time. Why don’t they get some sleep?
Some are student athletes and claim to stay up late finishing homework after games or practices. Others babysit or do other jobs after school. But I know the teachers on my 8th grade team don’t assign that much homework. So are the kids simply staying up late staring at the television or engrossed in video games? Do they sit on their beds until the wee hours texting friends?
I recently read an article on this subject by Daniel Willingham. Basically, Willingham says teens who do not get enough sleep will suffer negative consequences. These include problems with memory, mood, attention span, and academic performance. I see these problems all the time, and the negative effects include poor grades, discipline consequences, disrespect, and the inability to get along with peers.
Willingham explains that when adults are tired, they “listen” to the internal clues their bodies give telling them to get some shut-eye. Teens, for some reason, are less likely to “hear” those clues and claim they aren’t sleepy. When given the choice, they choose to continue playing their video games, listening to music, or watching television because their bodies fail to relay the message that they need to sleep.
The optimum amount of sleep for a teen is nine hours and less than eight is insufficient. I’m positive very few of my students get that much. No wonder they have such a hard time staying awake.
Parents need to set boundaries. As kids get older, we want to give them more freedom, but we have to remember we’re still their parents. They aren’t ready to be completely self-sufficient. If they were, kids would move out on their own at 13. Isn’t that a scary thought? There are a lot of decisions we wouldn’t let our teenagers make for themselves without some input or advice from us. If we as parents are concerned about our children’s education and future, we have to realize their bodies aren’t equipped to make the best choice in this area of their lives.
They may scream “I hate you!” when you cut off their computers, turn off the television, or put parental controls on their phones to stop texting late at night, but don’t worry. Once they are old enough to understand, they will be smarter and much more rested, and I’m certain they will appreciate the boundaries you set which prove you love them.
God designed us to be parents and guide our children throughout their lives, not just until they reach the teen years. Don’t be afraid to be a parent instead of a friend. Kids can find friends everywhere they go. Parents are harder to come by.