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.

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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.

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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. 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. 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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    • Meg says

      My mom would bang on the frame of the door on her way to the bathroom shouting “wake up, it’s time to go, we’re gonna be late”. When I was trying to stay home and refused to get up she’d rip off the covers on her way out of the bathroom and spray me with her hair water bottle.

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  3. 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. 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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      • 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. 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. 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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