Go The F**k To Sleep

Everyone is talking about a recent “children’s book for adults” called “Go The F..k To Sleep.” From the title we know there is bound to be controversy about its message and its medium. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it or seen it, the book is in the format of a classic young children’s bedtime picture book, with a nursery-rhyme-like few lines on each page about all the creatures that are sleeping, but ending with the Dad narrator’s supposedly internal expletive exclamation that his little girl should go to sleep already.
Given that this book is an Amazon bestseller, it must be tapping into something important. We think it speaks to a reservoir of anger, frustration and helplessness that many parents experience around toddler bedtime. This is a common experience for parents. We have found sleep issues are a frequently requested focus for parent discussions, blogs and advice columns. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, an important cultural issues blogger, historian, and psychoanalyst, discusses the roots of ubiquitous parental rage and resentment and their subsequent guilt (http://elisabethyoung-bruehl.com/2011/06/30/56-go-the-fuck-to-sleep/). She also points out that in all the furor around this book no one seems to be paying attention to what the child may be grappling with around sleep.
In EMOTIONAL MUSCLE: STRONG PARENTS, STRONG CHILDREN we discuss both the parents’ side and child’s side of the challenge of bedtime. A theme throughout the book is turning challenges into opportunities. We talk about how parents can develop their own emotional muscle of turning feelings into internal signals to initiate problem solving. Feeling angry and frustrated are signals of trouble that needs to be addressed.
“Yeah, it can be addressed by the kid going to sleep!” That implies that children have to meet adult needs. Even more importantly, it misses the opportunity for both child and parents to learn and grow. What if the first response to feeling frustrated is to wonder if your own feeling as a parent is any clue to what the child may be feeling? This can activate an empathic response rather than a retaliatory rejection that creates a negative feedback loop.
All parents talk about bedtime problems as a battle of wills – that sounds as if the issue is “who’s in charge?” We can expand that to “who’s in charge of what?” And then it starts to get interesting. We are already past the anger and into understanding the problem and seeking solutions. If parents are feeling controlled by their toddlers, maybe the toddlers, who are just taking charge of their own bodies by mastering toileting and keeping themselves safe, are insulted that parents are telling them to go to sleep, taking over a bodily function that belongs to the child. No one can force another person to go to sleep.
But grownups are responsible for bedtime and the bedtime routine. The distinction between bedtime and sleeping is a prime example of what we call the “three buckets.” Toddlers can play the game of what goes in the bucket of the things grownups are in charge of, what goes in the bucket of what kids are in charge of, and what goes in the bucket of what no one can be in charge of. It’s actually a fun game to play out in the daytime, and repeat over time as capabilities and responsibilities change.
Letting oneself release into sleep is, however, a wonderful skill to have lifelong. It’s important to learn how to do it, rather than suffering the effects of fatigue or enriching pharmaceutical companies who manufacture sleep aids! Grownups know lots of techniques for relaxing into sleep.
So parents can have fun during the day practicing “ways to help yourself go to sleep.” Even little children can learn how to “let each part of you get quiet – first your feet, then your legs, then your body, then your arms, then your neck, then your head.” You can practice this together lying on the floor in the daytime (pretty restful for parents too!). Breathing quietly, slowly and deeply is another useful thing to learn, as is thinking of the good parts of the day to reinforce the nice memories before going to sleep. Some people like to close their eyes and think of looking at a deep blue curtain or night sky. The possibilities are endless and fun to share.
If big feelings are keeping your child from comfortably falling asleep at bedtime, you can offer a hug and reassurance that they can be sorted out in the morning – after bedtime is not the right moment for long heart-to-heart talks. “I’m sorry that you are upset about your broken train, but now it’s time to be quiet and help yourself go to sleep. We’ll figure out how to fix it tomorrow.” Going to sleep then becomes an opportunity for children to use emotional muscles like putting feelings in words, self soothing, and bravery to let themselves go and trust that grown ups will care for them while they are asleep.
Both parents and children can start to enjoy pleasant winding-down together and then no one will have to mutter so angrily at bedtime.

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8 Responses to Go The F**k To Sleep

  1. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  2. Posting is very delightful and also amazing, I like your style of these items for me is too beneficial.

  3. wenwens says:

    Thanks pal. It has been interesting reading

  4. Thats some great basics there, already knew some of that, but you can always learn more. I doubt a “youngin” could put together such information as mario suggested. Maybe he’s just trying to be “controversial? lol

  5. Only a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great layout. “Treat the other man’s faith gently it is all he has to believe with.” by Athenus. I really apreciated this.

  6. Thank you your submission, it is interesting and compelling. I discovered my way here through Google, I will come back one more time :)

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