Is the Price of Privilege too Little Sleep?

I’ve just finished re-reading The Price of Privilege, a 2008 book by Madeline Levine. Last week at a professional development event at my school, I heard Dr. Levine speak, while taking nearly three pages of notes and recalling some of the parenting strategies my husband and I  used when our daughter, now out of graduate school, was in middle and high school.

Almost every concern that Dr. Levine raised — perfectionism, discontent, and insecurity — is familiar after years of parenting and teaching. I especially like her descriptions of effective parenting. Most importantly, when I read her book four years ago and reread it again last week, I thought about sleep and how much of a priority it needs to be for parents and children.

After the lecture my husband and I thought back to our daughter’s middle and high school years, considering all of the things we did well or could have done better. In the process we remembered the emphasis our family placed on getting enough sleep and eliminating computer screens each evening — sometimes to our daughter’s chagrin.

  • Our bedrooms were (and still are) primarily for sleeping, not for gadgets, appliances, office work, or homework, and their various accoutrements. Most of these remain downstairs in the living room, dining room,or  kitchen.
  • Lights dimmed for everyone in our family between 10:30 – 10:45 (and they still do) except for occasional extenuating circumstances (and a test the next morning did not qualify). We turned phones (yes, we had mobiles) and computers off. Any of us could listen to music (not on headphones) or read books and magazines. And yes, there were occasional tears about whether homework was completely finished, but in our world sleep was more vital to her health and life than homework.
Sleep matters. No matter what we want out kids to achieve, it’s simply too risky to watch benignly as a child becomes increasingly tired while completing homework, socializing, and using gadgets late into the night.

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