We've all done it: allowing children to stay up way past their bedtime because putting them to bed was too difficult, impractical, or annoying. While I can admit to having done this a few times, generally I ignore reasonable bedtime hours in lieu of a time that will actually benefit my child in the long run. Here are the instances where letting the kids stay up has advantages for everyone:
Kids with fevers, coughs, or new teeth most certainly need their rest. With them feeling under the weather, however, rules regarding eating, drinking, and TV time are probably being broken, anyway. So why do parents feel that a strict bedtime should continue even through the sickness? I like to look for clues that kids need sleep and allow them to snooze whenever, wherever – until they get back to normal. If this means that they crash during the day and stay up watching Blues Clues all night, that's cool with me: Whatever gets them healthy and keeps them feeling loved in the process.
Another reason to forgo rigid scheduling for bedtime is when there has been a devestating event in the family. A death, moving to a new location, or another life-altering occurance that may be met with anxiety or anger from the kids is certainly a good enough excuse to allow kids to get back on a good schedule, as they choose. While parents have a role in encouraging them to lay down and rest for a bit, if they show signs of not being able to rest happily, let them stay up for a bit (reading books, cuddling, listening to music) until they can doze off peacefully.
While putting kids to bed can be a long-anticipated happening when guests visit or you are on vacation, sometimes it's even more appropriate to let them stay up and hang out. Grandma in town for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner event, the viewing of a meteor shower, presidential election results, or New Year's celebrations are all reasons to party with the little ones in participation. Life only happens once, right?
Some of you may be thinking “What about school? Work? Getting up at a decent hour?” To this, I admit that I have a response you might not like. I have adjusted my life to be able to do these things without too much interruption to those things we must do. I freelance, homeschool, and work when I'm most productive. By following my kids' cues to what they need (more sleep, less naps, earlier bedtimes, etc.) I trust that I can give them the sleep they need – without forcing them to miss out on those important things we love.