I once spoke to a group of parents at a girls’ school in the city. I gave the menaheles a few topics from which to choose. She chose “Dreading Bedtime.”
I think that another topic could have “Dreading Reveille: Marshalling Your Young Troops Every Morning.”
This is such a common topic that it has its own song, "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," written by Irving Berlin back in 1918!
This issue seems to be alluded to in Chumash, too.
Every time the Torah uses the word va’yashkaim there is a drash on it. Apparently, va’yashkaim, getting up early in the morning, was difficult and noteworthy even then.
Why is that? Perhaps it’s inertia. According to Newton's first law of motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by a net external force. (I think the ‘body in motion stays in motion’ part only applies to toddlers!)
Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed because you’re still really tired.
Or, perhaps your body doesn’t feel like it’s time to get up. You know what I mean if you’ve ever had jet lag.
Scientists have determined that natural wake-up time varies by age. The adage, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” doesn’t apply to everyone.
This bias toward early morning rising adversely affects adolescents in particular. Teenagers tend to require at least 9 full hours of sleep each night, and changes to the endocrine system shift their natural wake time to later in the morning. Typical youth are not able to fall asleep much before 11 p.m. and their brains will remain in sleep mode until about 8 a.m., regardless of what time they go to bed. Imposing earlier wake-up times can have negative effects on mood, academic performance, and social skills. Tired teens can find it difficult to concentrate and learn, or even stay awake in class. Too little sleep also might contribute to mood swings and behavioral problems. (Adapted from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teens-health/art-20046157)
It is clear that for many adolescents and teens, the difficulty in getting up is not just inertia.
How can you help them and your younger children with the problem of getting out of bed without making it your problem?
That’s depends, as usual, al pi darcho, according to each child.
Most adults and children are startled into wakefulness by the mechanism of an alarm or other source of sound. For many, that is not a pleasant way to start the day. Recently, so called gentle-wake alarm clocks which use light, vibration, or scent have been proven to be effective and more pleasant ways to start the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “when we’re exposed to light in the morning, our brain prompts our body temperature to rise and our cortisol levels to increase. (Although cortisol has a bad rap as a “stress hormone,” it’s actually normal to have higher cortisol levels in the morning, as that’s what wakes us up.) At the same time, levels of sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin drop off, rousing us from sleep.”
Many pre-school children prefer to be awakened by a parent. Let it be your problem while they’re very young. Even then, opening a shade or turning on a soft light before touching or speaking is a more gentle way to rouse your child.
At what age do you ask your child to take responsibility for getting out of bed on time? I think most elementary school age children can take charge of arranging to be awakened given the mechanisms they need. Ask each child what they think would be the best mechanism for them.
Unless they just don’t care, in which case you’re looking for incentives. For example:
Tell your children that The Ploni Family Breakfast Special (e.g. sweet cereal, pancakes, French Toast, croissant, chocolate milk, hot cocoa) will be served daily from 6 AM to 7 AM ONLY! And you have to mean it!
For your children who eat breakfast in school, offer some grapes, a Clementine, a small pastry, or candy to take with them to school if they’re up and ready to leave the house on time. These are just suggestions. Be creative and work with your child on what he or she would like.
Finally, we come to one of the yesodos of parenting: modeling. This will explain the title of this article.
Much of your children’s behavior is the result of observing you. You are on their radar more often than you realize. That includes how you begin your day.
Why is our being in shul early so important, ka v’yachol, to Hashem?
According to the Ben Ish Chai in his sefer Beniyahu, there are two reasons.
Because if you arrive late, you miss saying Amen, y’hai Shmai Rabba, “[a sentence] which is beloved before Hashem,” and because you miss saying Kedusha. (Brachos 6b d.h. she-neamar madua ba-si…)
I would add that you also miss the birchos hashachar said by the shliach tzibur which you may need to complete your maeh brochos.
And one more thing. If you don’t come early, you don’t get to be one of the batlanim.
The gemara says that a “big city” is defined as one that has ten batlanim in the shul at all times. (Megilah 5a)
The sefer Sifsei Chachamim on this gemara asks, “Isn’t batlanim a derogatory term?” He answers that in this context it is a compliment, “a term denoting greatness and significance.” If these men are gedolim and chashuvim why are they called batlanim? They are called batlanim because they are m’vatlin kaaso shel Maala, they prevent Hashem’s anger by assuring that there is always a minyan in shul when it is time to daven. (Sifsei Chachamim, Rav Avraham Abba Herzel, Nachas Publishing, Bnei Brak, 1994, page 60, d.h. Batlanin)
Show your children how important it is to you to be up on time for your mitzvos, then hope they’ll follow your lead.
Rabbi Ackerman is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time
Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575