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How to Hack Your Kid's Bedtime

Photograph by Twenty20

The fine folks at Wilson Elementary School in Kenosha, Wis., have compiled a handy little chart that tells you when you should be putting your kid to sleep each night.

It's easy enough: Just select the time you'd like your child to wake up, refer to the chart, and then bam! You've figured out the perfect bedtime for your child. From now on, you and your child will be well-rested, happy and ready to learn each day. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong! You are so incredibly wrong! Do you even have children?!

Ahem.

This is a classic chicken-and-egg situation. The time your child goes to bed is really dictated by when he/she wakes up in the morning. Alternatively, the time your child wakes up is really dictated by the time he/she goes to bed the night before. Well, which is it? Wake-up time or bed time? Bed time or wake-up time? How could you ever know? And if you don't know, does this make you an awful parent? (Answer: Yes. It most certainly does. It makes you an awful, terrible, no good parent.)

RELATED: How Exactly Do I Get My Kid to Stay in Bed?

All this doesn't even take into account a child's activity level for the day, his/her diet for the day or the fact that children are not so easy to put to bed at night.

They need a glass of water.

They need the lights off.

No, back on.

No, back off.

OK, maybe just a night light.

They need one more book.

They need one more song.

They need one more glass of water.

They need to drive their parents totally and utterly insane.

They need one more kiss.

They need one more hug.

They need one more kiss and one more hug.

They need to remind their parents of why they ever had children in the first place. But I digress.

So, tonight, put your kids to bed when it works for you.

I like the idea of this chart, in theory. I like rules, and I like the idea that if you do A, you will get B as a result.

But that's the thing with kids. There are no rules. One day, you might think you're totally killing it (like, for example, one of those days when you successfully get your kid to eat broccoli). The next day, though, you're left to wonder if you should even be a parent at all (like, for example, when your kid throws broccoli into your hair and screams at you about trying to poison him in front of a room full of your family members).

Kids are unpredictable. Kind of like adults. So no chart is going to accurately be able to tell you when you should put your kid to bed in order to get him/her to wake up at a certain time. And, like adults, some kids need more sleep than others. Some kids are nappers, some kids won't fall asleep even if you take them on a five-hour car ride. Some kids go to sleep the second their heads hit the pillow. Others need a story or a book or hugs from their mommy. Again and again and again.

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So, while this chart has very good intentions, I'm afraid bed times and waking times are not quite as clear cut as Wilson Elementary would have you believe. So, tonight, put your kids to bed when it works for you. And them. And don't forget to give them one more kiss. And one more hug. And one more glass of water. And one more story. And one more, well, you know the drill.

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