How To Wake A Sleeping Teenager (Without Starting World War III)


Unmade Bed

When I hear parents of young children talk about how their kids are up before the sun rises, and how they can’t wait until they’re older so they can get some extra sleep, I empathize. Then I tell them not to wish it away too quickly, because sweet toddlers in the pre-dawn hours beat grumpy-teen vampires any day of the week.

When my sons were little, they were early risers too, though luckily, they didn’t feel the need to do somersaults the moment they opened their eyes — a big help since I was often up late doing freelance work.  Still, 6 a.m. came awfully soon. To ease our way into the day, television shows like Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Arthur were my drugs of choice, along with my mother-in-law’s video gifts of SpongeBob SquarePants and Yu-Gi-Oh! — both shows I swore I’d never watch but ended up doing exactly that, laughing along with the boys. On the rare occasion that they overslept, I couldn’t — certain that there was something wrong, I’d sneak into their room to check to be sure they were still breathing.

Years passed.  And as they did, the boys woke later and later, until, as children tend to do, they became teenagers, and the only part of the wake-up routine that was familiar was the checking-to-make-sure-they-were-breathing part.

Today, I’m a self-certified expert in How to Wake A Sleeping Teenager. Hundreds of hours have gone into my training. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Don’t Do This:

1. Take away privileges. When you’re frustrated, it’s tempting to show who’s boss. But the reality is that they’re teens for seven years. And sometimes longer. Pretty soon they’ll be muttering, okay, whatever. And you will be too.

2. Buy multiple, creative alarms. They will tune them out and make them part of their dream sequences which they will tell you about in elaborate detail, usually when you are driving them to whatever it is they are late for.  Not even an alarm that sounds like a rooster, or one that recites lines from classic movies in ridiculous voices, or one that says wake up in progressively louder voices. I have tried them all.

3. Send in the dog. This will backfire because it will make them happy and when they are happy, they feel cozier, and when they are happy and cozy they go back to sleep because they want to keep dreaming.

Do This:

1. Quietly open their bedroom door, head to the kitchen, and fry up some bacon.  You won’t have to say a word. Swear.

2. Piss them off. And believe me, this will be easy to do, regardless of how well-meaning you are. Try coming into their room and raising the blinds, or turning on the light. Or cheerily saying, Good morning, sweetheart. Or better yet, if you’re in a house with two levels, call their name from downstairs, which will sound like a yell because it is after the first few times you say it nicely.  They will then sit up and yell back one of two things: WHAT? Which will piss you off because they know very well what, or I’M UP MOM! which they are not, because if they were, neither of you would be yelling. Word of warning here — these methods are guaranteed to rouse them, but will also excite the bear in them and they will not be nice again until they have eaten.

3. Text them.  Why would they hear a text ding or feel its vibration if numerous alarms don’t work? I have no idea.  They are the next generation and they have been rewired — trust me on this.  But here’s the thing…in your text, you have to offer to take them to Subway because it turns out vampire teens will wake for Subway.

4. If all else fails, bring out the big guns; Turn on the cartoons. They secretly miss them. And the chance to slow the world down and watch them with you.


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  1. 2

    Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense says

    When mine are teens, I’ll try my ever-loving best to be sure I’m sleeping in right along with them. I mean, like, in my own bed. That would be creepy to be still sleeping with my kids when they’re teenagers. And then when we all wake up we can cook bacon… together! <3 <3 <3

    I had surgery today; I could still be slightly delusional.

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  2. 3

    Mom off meth says

    My mom would very rarely use the squirt bottle that she misted her plants on me. Or take away my covers. Oh, it woke the beast in me.

    These are great and super funny.

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  3. 4

    Lawry says

    My mom’s favorite evil ass trick was an ice water filled super soaker!! Guaranteed to wake us up piss us off and make us have to get up to pee ..Every. Damn. Time…..Pure Evil Mom genius right there!!

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  4. 5

    stilltrying says

    My son is 14, I go for the annoyingly cheerful voice, followed by lights on and curtains opened! Although I agree he could smell bacon from 10 miles away…..the issue I am having at the moment is getting him out of the shower once he is up!

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      • 7

        stilltrying says

        Ah, see boys all least don’t have all the makeup and hair faffing to do, he seems to spend the entire morning in the shower, empty the contents of the fridge, and still be ready before me so he can get a few minutes of moaning about me making him late in before we leave. …….( in my defence, I also have a 6 year old to get ready, otherwise I would kick his a** in the getting ready “race”)

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  5. 13

    Erin says

    All true! Teenage daughter tested. Now if only I were smarter…teen and 4-year-old means no sleep for parents! One keeps you up all night, and the other is active all day.

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  6. 15

    Wendy Block says

    They wake for texts because they think it might be a friend! My son was never a problem this way- he wanted to get in the shower before his sister, who would take forever! My daughter was absolutely impossible! She broke more alarm clocks than I can count – literally smashing them. Pissing her off was the only way, but so unpleasant. I'm so glad I don't have to do that anymore.

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  7. 19

    Kat says

    Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten how to sleep in. I never seem to make it past 8:30 on the weekends so now I get the pleasure/payback of rousing them! I’m nice enough to give them until 9:30 though because I don’t want to deal with the bad moods.

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  8. 20

    grownandflown says

    We have had a succession of chocolate labs and our now 23 year old’s dog was named Argus. For years, we employed the Argus Alarm Clock to wake him up. Worked every time.

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  9. 23

    Melissa says

    Please don’t say the need to check on their breathing doesn’t go away! My 1 year old didn’t make so much as a peep last night so I went in to check on him at 5:30am…and he promptly woke up…and was a little grumbly about it. Oh no, he’s already channeling the teenage years!

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  10. 25

    Allie says

    Oh this post made me laugh only because I can relate.

    My 14yo son is a grump in the mornings. I need to be all cheerful, even fake it, to not make him even grumpier. He needs about 30 minutes to find his bearings then we are all good. And, yes, don’t send the dog in, she thinks of a cozy spot.

    My 12 yo daughter is the happy riser but can be hard sometimes. The food trick works but it needs to be pancakes.

    These are great, we may find it amusing but waking up teens before noon is hard. Thanks for the ideas and letting me know my kids are normal. :-)


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    • 26

      Melissa T. Shultz says

      They are, they are — and you know what? My oldest son (20) has a job this summer and works 9-5 and it seems that he can’t sleep on the weekends later than 8 am because his body clock has been altered. So just know that eventually, there will be a new normal for your children (and you) too!

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  11. 29

    Debbie says

    Good list here for teens and wake up calls. I had one that didn’t want to get up. After so many times I just let her sleep. Would take the other 2 to school. She would finally wake up and say she was ready to go to school. I would just look at her and say, “Sorry you over slept, guess you are stuck with me. I have lots of work for you to help me with today.”
    One time of this and she learned real quick to hear that alarm go off and get her little butt moving.
    School was more fun than staying home and helping mom with the work.Thanks Melissa when we put ideas together we can always find something that works.

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    • 30

      Leslie says

      I’m sorry, I read your blog post “Can we really trust the blog scary mommy?” And I’m wondering why you are here. You say some pretty negative things.

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      • 31

        Debbie says

        Hi Leslie,

        Sorry you took my post and negative, I am just trying to understand why mothers are speaking so much negativety about parenting rather than the joys of being a mother.
        I am here trying to understand mothers of this generations. I have raised 3 girls all by myself mainly and have grand kids, so I need to keep up with what is happening. We can’t learn unless we reach out for knowledge… Knowledge is wisdom on the positive side.

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    • 32

      Jordan says

      I also read your blog post. I found it to be completely one sided. For example, you quoted half of a confession. I remember the confession. The woman said she wished she had married for money because that way she could spend her time with her daughter. I thought it was a sweet confession and seemed to be in jest, not literal. You obviously have trouble with the whole picture aspect of writing.

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      • 33

        Debbie says

        Or Jordon is it that maybe you have trouble with the truth. As for that confession, I guess my PC was holding out on me, because I did not see the part of her wishing she had more money so she could spend more time with her daughter. Money does not by you time. Using your time wisely is what counts. Maybe she should have taken the time she was on her PC and spent it with her daughter instead.
        The more you write the better ones writing gets, so right now I am just practicing.
        I do have to feel a little bad for you Jordan that you feel you have to try and really belittle someone with that comment. I just pray that you don’t put your own children down in this matter.
        Self esteem is very important and with this comment,”You obviously have trouble with the whole picture aspect of writing”, guess you may need a little work or your self-esteem.
        Thank you for sharing your feeling, Jordan, it is appreciated.

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        • 34

          Jordan says

          If we are talking about the same confession, here is exactly what that confession said “If I could go back, I would have married for money and not gotten my masters degree. All I want to do is be a SAHM. I can’t justify that to my husband. I’ve already been home 7 months. I fear I will have to go work soon.” To me, that woman wants to be home with her child. You quoted a small portion of that confession. Therefore you did not show the whole picture.

          Additionally, to say that she should get off her pc and spend time with her child is silly. Babies at seven months old sleep often, both during the day and at night. It is possible to spend maximum time with your child and still find time to be on your PC.

          I apologize that you felt belittled with my comment. That was not my intention. I was just pointing out then, as I am now, that in regards to that particular confession you might have shown a one sided portrayal. I have not nor would I ever belittle my child.

          Finally, I do not have trouble with my self esteem, but it does appear that you have trouble with both writing and constructive criticism.
          Thank you for sharing your feelings.

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  12. 35

    Stephanie R says

    haha! I have had much success with waking my son up by pissing him off. I use our intercom and sing REALLY loudly into it. Initially I thought that it would be an adorable way to wake him up, but it turns out that it makes him really pissed.

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  13. 36

    Larissa says

    So, I have an alomst-16-year-old son. We have done the multiple alarm clocks, scattered throughout his room (thinking he has to get up to turn them off) but the kid sleeps through all of them!!! I need to find a mattress pad that shocks him or something :(

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  14. 37

    Joanne says

    It’s too bad that preschool starts so late and high school so early when research (and anecdotes) shows us all the time that it’s teenage brains that need those extra hours of sleep in the AM. Seems silly to fight nature that way. Although I guess it’s hard to get all the hours of classwork, sports and other extra curriculars, and homework in without starting early.

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  15. 38

    Savi says

    When I was a kid my dad used to come into my room singing “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s mooooorning!” I would leap out of bed just to get away from it. Pissed me off so bad. Still does just thinking about it. I don’t have a teen yet but I go through this battle with my husband.We only have one vehicle so we commute together. He makes us late every morning. I bribe him with bacon when I have time.

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