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Does ‘Go The F- To Sleep’ Encourage Violence Against Kids?

Some people have no sense of humor. For example, Karen Spears Zacharias.

As the title suggests, “Go the F*** to Sleep” mocks the parental frustrations of trying to lay a child down to bed. Crass in concept and execution, this is an expletive-filled bedtime story intended solely for the amusement of parents.

Right!

Joan Demarest is an attorney in Corvallis, Oregon, and the mother of three young boys. Demarest told me that initially she thought the book was funny. That was before she read it. “Now I find it unsettling. I don’t like violent language in association with children.”

She has good reason to be concerned about the message behind such a parody. Demarest was the prosecuting attorney in one of Oregon’s most high-profile child murder cases. She understands the fear that far too many children endure because the lines of what’s appropriate parenting have become blurred.

Nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect.

Except, of course, Zacharias and Demarest.

Still, there’s no denying the reason “Go the F*** to Sleep” should be kept out of reach of children is because of its violent language and because of the way it demeans children.

Well, we’ve already established that this is a book aimed at parents, not children. Also: Children of the age that won’t go the fuck to sleep? They can’t read.

“Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos,” says Dr. David Arredondo. He is an expert on child development and founder of The Children’s Program, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which provides consultation and training for those working with troubled youths.

It is hard to imagine this kind of humor being tolerated by any of the marginalized groups Arredondo cited. Consider the lines on page 3:

“The eagles who soar thru the sky are at rest
And the creatures who crawl, run and creep.
I know you are not thirsty. That’s bulls**t.
Stop lying.
Lie the f*** down, my darling, and sleep.”

Yes, because Jews, blacks, Muslims and Latinos are notorious for inventing excuses to prolong bedtime. Oh: And being a small child is not an immutable characteristic of one’s existence; it’s a phase of life. All of us, including Adam Mansbach, were children once upon a time.

The irony, says Arredondo, is that the people buying the book are probably good parents.

“The people reading this book are educated parents, who actually care about their children and are frustrated that often their children don’t behave the way storybooks display.”

That is ironic!

Parents often don’t act in the way storybooks depict either. Putting kids to bed can be a challenge, and it may be an even bigger problem for this generation of parents because the sacred bedtime ritual of reading to children has gone away.

“I think it’s pretty important to note that most kids in this country do not get read to at all when they go to sleep,” Arredondo says.

Sad, if true. But, as already established, this book is aimed at the other sort of parents. Indeed, most of the humor of the book would have been lost on me three years ago, in that it had been four decades since I’d last read a children’s book. It only works as a satire on the genre of books aimed at pre-schoolers.

Author Adam Mansbach is undoubtedly the kind of father who heaps love, affection and attention upon his daughter. (He reportedly had the idea to write the book because of his exasperation with her at bedtime.) But sadly, his book accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up.

Parents have been frustrated with their children from the the beginning of time. The frustration of getting kids to bed has, presumably, gotten worse in modern times, as more of us are on schedules. But the overwhelming majority of us accept this is part of the package; the challenges are the price of the joy and are looked upon fondly and with pride.

The violent language of “Go the F*** to Sleep” is not the least bit funny, when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who’d care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them.

But, for the dozenth time, you ninny, these aren’t the people buying the book. Parents who don’t give a crap about their kids aren’t buying books about the hardships of parenting because parenting is only hard if you give a crap. Indeed, lousy parents tend not to impose bedtimes at all–letting the kids stay up to all hours of the night is the easy path and lets the parents get on with doing what they’d rather be doing.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. That column is as ridiculous as the tripe that Brent Bozell wrote about Go The F**k To Sleep last week

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  2. J_Waite says:

    Holy moly, but I knew this was coming.

    I don’t really like reading to my kids at bedtime (because I’m exhausted and ready for them to finally go the f*** to sleep), but I do it anyway. I’m not familiar with this trend of ferrel children putting themselves to bed at night.

    All this book is is the internal dialogue that tired, frustrated and loving parents have had probably since the beginning of time.

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  3. John Weiss says:

    WTF?! James, are you getting – fluffy?!

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  4. Steve Verdon says:

    They can’t read.

    They can’t fucking read.

    There fixed it for you James. :p

    I am completely convinced some people go through life just waiting to be outraged and then file a lawsuit or some other dipshit thing. These people are a blight.

    Author Adam Mansbach is undoubtedly the kind of father who heaps love, affection and attention upon his daughter. (He reportedly had the idea to write the book because of his exasperation with her at bedtime.) But sadly, his book accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up.

    I can assure you that every single one of the sanctimonious pricks quoted above have had similar thoughts about their kids when they are being difficult. Having a thought and acting on it are two totally different things. When a guy cuts me off in traffic I might think, “That guy should be taken out and flogged!” Am I now guilty of some sort of “pre-crime”?

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  5. CB says:

    that piece by hoft affirms my belief that he is the most ridiculous person on the intertubes.

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  6. CB says:

    the piece by bozell, my apologies

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  7. Franklin says:

    I think you meant Bozo.

    Has it occurred to any of these nitwits that the book lets suffering parents know they’re not the only ones with this problem? That perhaps a little humor in one’s life could prevent you from beating your child, or at least reduce the stress enough that you don’t have a heart attack before the kid grows up? I guess there will always be people with sticks so far up their ass that they can taste the wood.

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  8. Anybody who has never experienced the sentiments of that book is either childless or had a partner who did all the putting the kids to bed business.

    So please: lighten up already.

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  9. The Bozell piece is quite the rant. You have to love the conclusion:

    But best-sellers like this suggest people have a love affair with profane rants, and that profanity sells, and sells very well. Such garbage can end up defining a culture.

    I guess we are all doomed.

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  10. michael reynolds says:

    Steve Verdon:

    I am completely convinced some people go through life just waiting to be outraged and then file a lawsuit or some other dipshit thing. These people are a blight.

    I can assure you that every single one of the sanctimonious pricks quoted above have had similar thoughts about their kids when they are being difficult. Having a thought and acting on it are two totally different things.

    Preach it, brother.

    An interesting change in recent years is that at least YA (13ish and up) authors have much more direct contact with the readers. So we’re much more able to call bullsh-t on the concern trolls of kidlit, people like the self-serving, meddling, book-and-media hating scolds and Luddites at Common Sense Media and their ilk. Just under 3,000 Twitter followers, a couple thousand on Facebook, plus Goodreads and email, so when I get a suggestion that a book is too scary, for example, I can point to 5,000 plus kids who say the opposite.

    Is it hardcore porn? Is it Nazi recruitment material? If the answer is “No,” then the words, “Don’t read that,” should never cross an adult’s lips. And for Christ’s sake stopping thinking the f-bomb will turn your kids into psychopaths.

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  11. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: “And for Christ’s sake stopping thinking the f-bomb will turn your kids into psychopaths.”

    All I can say is that I fucking hope not.

    Indeed, my 2-1/2 year old dropped one for the first time a couple months ago during a wagon-related incident. Her mother was somewhat mortified but, as I noted, she was using it correctly.

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  12. Anon says:

    Is it Nazi recruitment material? If the answer is “No,” then the words, “Don’t read that,” should never cross an adult’s lips.

    I think that arguably YAs should be allowed to read Nazi recruitment material, with proper guidance from parents.

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  13. michael reynolds says:

    James:

    Who hasn’t yelled something during a wagon related incident? Some asshole probably cut her off when she was trying to merge.

    That’s usually my major objection with my kids: if you’re going to curse do it right.

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  14. rodney dill says:

    And for Christ’s sake stopping thinking the f-bomb will turn your kids into psychopaths.

    No it doesn’t, but I never liked when it gets to the point that the words control some people more than they control their words. E.g. Sitting in a restaurant and you overhear another table where no one can say ‘Pass the maple syrup’ without saying ‘Pass the f@cking maple syrup’ and they have no clue they’re swearing.

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  15. MstrB says:

    Funny, my kid properly used the f-bomb after some kid hit him in the back of the head with a plastic bottle. I noted it was correctly used, the wife noted it was probably my fault.

    I’m on board with the lightening up, with a 3 year old and 1 1/2 year old there are those nights that make one want to play in traffic. Although I would like to recommend a sequel, “Go the F*ck Back to Sleep,” dedicated to my child who decides to wake up at 6 Am on a Saturday, a full hour early than he does during the week.

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  16. Moderate Mom says:

    When our son was about 3, I discovered I was out of mayo while in the middle of making BLT’s for dinner and asked my husband to run to the store to get some. Rather than going to a grocery store, he ran to a Quick Mart and came back home with no mayo, because he said they didn’t have any. Mind you, the Quick Mart was literally right next across the street from a grocery store. I got mad and told him to go back out to the grocery store and get the fucking mayonnaise. He leaves, with our son in tow.

    At the store, while checking out, the checkout lady takes notice of our son and sweetly asks him what he’s doing at the store with his daddy. He informs her that they are there to buy “the fucking mayonnaise”. My husband probably would have been more embarrassed if he hadn’t been laughing so hard. I almost wish I had been there to see the look on her face.

    It’s our entire family’s favorite story about our son. They still laugh about it.

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  17. RightKlik says:

    They should publish a whole series of books based on this concept.

    One for you elderly grandfather who won’t stay the f* in the house and keeps wandering out into the f*ing street naked, one for the f*ing retard with diarrhea who who keeps sh*tting in his f*ing pants, one for the agitated patient in the ICU who won’t settle the f* down, one for the drunken homeless guy on the street corner who won’t get the f* out of the way…

    The possibilities are endless.

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  18. rodney dill says:

    @RightKlik
    The possibilities are F*cking endless. (FTFY)

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