- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2011

Culture Challenge of the Week: Parental Frustration

It’s a short book, 14 verses long, with the cadence and imagery of a child’s bedtime tale. Written by a young dad, the book topped Amazon’s best-seller list even before it was released. It’s gone viral and has earned cult status among parents in a few short weeks.

It seems like the perfect baby shower gift or present for new parents to read to their little ones.

Until you read the title: “Go the [expletive] to Sleep.”

It turns out that this book is a parody for parents and definitely not for children. Each verse begins with child-friendly descriptions such as this one: “The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear.”

It’s the next line, however, that reveals the parent’s unsaid thoughts and rising frustration: “Please go the [expletive] to sleep.”

Each verse builds on the next, expressing parental frustration that becomes anger ready to explode. It’s wildly popular.

The author, Adam Mansbach, asserts that the story’s genius - and why it resonates with parents - is that it’s an honest portrayal of what parents feel, and stifle, during the ordinary frustrations of parenthood.

“Remember that the parents in my book aren’t actually cursing at the kids. They’re actually being good parents; they’re not letting on that they’re about to explode,” he said in an interview with Smithmag.net.

So what’s the problem? While the book taps into a common parental experience, it advocates the wrong solution.

The book’s implicit message is that it’s perfectly OK to stoke your internal anger and resentment against your child - just keep the smiley-face on and mute the profanities that can tumble forth from boiling emotions.

Comments from parents across the Internet reflect their embracing of this message. For them, “Go the [expletive] to Sleep” perfectly captures the inner voice that plays over and over inside their heads, even as they bravely soldier on.

How to Save Your Family: By Parenting With Peace

How do good parents avoid that inner rage Mr. Mansbach seems to assume is an inevitable part of parenting?

Savor childhood. Relish the fleeting opportunity to tuck your precious ones in bed. Understand there is a day coming when that little child will walk down the aisle to graduation and out of your home.

Take the time to understand their little personalities in such a way to help them build upon their strengths and diminish their weaknesses. Learn to parent in peace and gratefulness.

Parenting with peace doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes feel angry, exhausted or frustrated. Of course we do.

But ruminating, inwardly complaining and mentally cussing our children out, as the story portrays, is no solution. In fact, it undercuts the heart attitude parents need, and can rob you of the precious joy of the “goodnight kiss.”

Parenting requires a heart that embraces mature love - love that’s willing to forbear wrongs, shoulder burdens and be patient with childish tendencies.

Harboring anger against a child’s behavior undercuts authentic love and diminishes our ability to treat the child with respect and kindness. An inwardly seething parent - especially one whose “inner voice” demeans and lashes out at the child - communicates anger and resentment, not kindness and love. Kids can tell.

The Bible tells us to “put off anger” and to “put on” forbearance, patience, kindness and love. That means we recognize the feelings, but move past them, putting real virtues to work. The good book also clearly tells us that children are a blessing from the Lord.

Mature love and a grateful heart for the privilege of being a parent makes us willing to wear the mantle of authority and responsibility that comes with the gift of parenthood. If we are convinced of our authority - and our child’s need for our wisdom, judgment and firmness - it’s easier to step back and take stock of each situation, assessing the child’s needs.

A child unwilling to sleep alone may need compassion and comfort and our reassuring presence. Maybe he’s just scared. Or the child may need clear limits, a soothing routine and consistency from the parents. Your job is to determine the cause of the behavior, and then lovingly work to correct it.

A heart feeding on anger and frustration robs you and your child of precious - and fleeting - moments together.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosave yourfamily.com.



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