We have four children, two girls aged 16 and 14 and two boys aged 12 and 7. The three older children go to sleep later than the youngest boy, a fact he bitterly resents. He takes out his frustrations by acting out, refusing to go to bed and jumping out once he is in. There is lots of action going on in our home in the evening and he can't seem to settle down. He's an active little kid and doesn't want to miss any of the fun, but when he goes to bed late he finds it hard to get up in the morning for school and is miserable. How can I explain to him that even though he's bright and considers himself a peer to his siblings, the rules have to be different for his age? We're not into heavy punishment and deprivation.
Don't be apologetic about not running a boot camp - those are usually short term solutions, anyway. Real communication with your kids is not achieved by their spending time on the rock pile.
It is not uncommon for a kid to look at their brothers and sisters and think that he's getting the raw deal - such is the nature of sibling relations. Your little one's older sisters, for instance, might be thrilled to skip some of their homework and get a little early shut-eye (well, once in a while).
Tell him that they may be thinking, "Why can't I go to sleep early like him?" (Yeah, I know this sounds a little far- fetched, but if he's as bright as you say he is, maybe he's got a good imagination.) Better yet, get them in on the act and let them tell him themselves. (Have them do it at the end of a long day, when it's true!)
Is it also possible that you spent lots of time reading bedtime stories and sitting next to your older kids when they were his age, but you've kind of grown beyond that as they've grown up? Do you give him the same amount of quiet time and attention that you gave his older brother and sisters? Do you sit next to him at night and share conversation, a book, a cup of hot chocolate with him? Do you tuck him in like you did with the others?
We tend to forget that our older kids grow up, but our younger ones are still children and need the same TLC.
Maybe his desire to stay up and be with the family is also a plea for more attention in general. When was the last time you spent time with him alone?
But beyond these suggestions, he also has to learn that rules are part of life, even when we don't agree with them. If he always gets his way at home, he'll expect the same at school and elsewhere. You aren't doing him a favor by giving in to his desires, however understandable they might be. Firmness with love, love with firmness - try to find the formula that's right for your kid.