Rabbi Ross. My parents agreed that I can e-mail you regarding a fight we’re having. My friends have bedtimes of 10:00 and later, and my parents make me go into bed at 9:00. I’m twelve-years -old and I should be able to stay up later. Basically, every night we argue and I go upstairs and stay up until 10:00 or later anyway. How can I convince my parents to let me stay up later? Michael – Brooklyn
Michael, thanks so much for your email. First and foremost, I’d like to bring attention to the first sentence you wrote “regarding a fight” you and your parents are having. Parents and children do not have fights. They might have discussions, or disagree regarding an issue, but ultimately, the parents have the final say.
Your letter includes two different issues.
The second issue I have with lack of sleep, is that it’s not healthy. Growing children, and yes, you’re still growing, require sleep. There’s a huge debate regarding how much sleep someone your age needs. Some say as little as 9 hours, other say 12 hours. It seems that that smart solution is to take this case by case.
If you would like to ask your parents for a later bedtime, the first thing you need to do is demonstrate that you are both capable and responsible. Here is what I would suggest.
The second topic you mentioned in your question is regarding your friends. I’ve heard this complaint from hundreds of kids. “All of my friends have phones” or, “Everyone in my class is going”, and so many more.
It’s a tough argument to make. On the one hand, your parents put you in an environment in which all of your friends have something. Telling you that you can’t have it seems unfair. An example is, if every child, and I mean every child in the class, has a cell phone, it’s pretty unfair to tell one boy he can’t have one. In other words, there are times saying “all of my friends have one” is a valid argument.
What you’re forgetting, is that these friends of yours have different parents. Sure, they might have the newest iPod or go to a specific camp. However, they might also have to deal with things that you might not want to be involved with. The grass is always greener on the other side. You might think that they have the “good life”, but you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives.
Additionally, if you want to use your friends as proof, then your parents can turn and use that same argument. You want to go to basketball camp? Your friends aren’t going, why should you go? It’s a slippery slope you’re on. Besides, many boys that have tried this argument have found out that they’re actually wrong. One boy told me that everyone in his class had a smart watch. His proof? They told him. Not that I’m doubting an eight-year-old boy who doesn’t know that he’s wearing his undershirt inside out, but I have a gut feeling that most of these boys don’t really have a smart watch.
In other words, many times this is a pretty weak argument. You’re not necessarily entitled to something because other people have it. That’s not the way life works. Again, there are instances when you can use this approach; but bedtime is not one of them. If you want a later bedtime, do what we spoke about earlier. Prove to your parents that you are mature, responsible and ready for it.
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.