Help! I Can't Get My Teen Out of Bed in the Morning Without Shouting and Drama!

Filed under: Opinions, Teen Culture, Expert Advice: Teens



I have to scream every morning to get my 16-year old daughter up for school. She stays up too late and is always tired. Any suggestions?

This question has two parts. The first is about the age-old problem of getting kids up in the morning and out the door in time for school. Regardless of their age, most children don't bounce out of bed to catch the bus because they'd rather stay home!

Despite our well-intentioned lectures about the importance of education, or our desire to motivate our youngsters to be enthusiastic students, kids are biased toward having fun as much as possible, and, for many of them, it's just more fun to stay home.

That's not to say that once they're at school, our children don't have a good time playing with friends and learning new things. It just means that to a sleepy child, the pull is strong to stay in that cozy, comfy bed as long as possible!

Rather than resorting to threats, bribes and general hysteria to light a fire under that slow-moving youngster of yours, focus on waking her and her groggy brain up without relying on drama and shouting to get her adrenalin pumping. Bring her a protein smoothie or an apple slice to kick-start her system when you wake her up. Turn on energetic music to help your daughter shift out of her foggy state. Some kids like it when you inject a bit of fun into the morning routine, having them eat breakfast with their left hand (if they're right handed), or holding a contest to see who can make it to the car first -- with shoes, backpack, lunch and homework in tow.

But your teen may not respond favorably to games, especially if she's tired, which adolescents usually are. The lure of Facebook and the magnetic pull of the online world -- not to mention late night cell phone chats and texts -- keep our kids up much later than is healthy, given the early hour they have to awaken for school.

Help your daughter find a meaningful incentive. Does she care about her grades? She will, if she's motivated to get into a particular college. Help her see the link between missing part of class and getting a lower grade. Or, perhaps the two of you can invent a motivator -- something she can remind herself of in the morning when she's tempted to hit the snooze button. Often, something relatively insignificant can work -- the promise of her favorite dinner on Friday night if she gets to school on time all week, or an extra hour added to her Saturday night curfew.

But the most important element of your question is the fact that your daughter, like most of her peers, is tired all the time. Teenagers should get vastly more sleep than they typically get. They need between 8 ½ and 9 ¼ hours, but most of them average just 6 ½ hours.

And, because of hormone activity and biorhythms, most adolescents don't feel sleepy until 11 p.m., or even midnight, which spells disaster when school starts between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. In 1996, Edina High School in Minneapolis changed its start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and noticed a significant difference in students' performance. But inadequate sleep impacts more than just grades; it can contribute to mood swings, car accidents, illness and behavior problems.

What can you do? Instead of trying to force your daughter to unplug earlier, set a quiet tone in the evening for the whole family, turning off computers and opening books, pulling out colored pencils or playing music. Create unwinding rituals that gently help her body shift out of the stimulated state it's in when the TV or computer is on. If need be, establish a time when the Internet router and cell phones are turned off.

Even if you do manage to get your daughter to go to sleep earlier, however, don't expect her to cheerfully leap out of bed when you tell her it's time to rise and shine, and don't take her grouchiness personally. She is, after all, a teenager, and no matter how much sleep she gets, she'll almost always want to stay in that cozy bed to catch a few more zzzs.

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.