According to yesterday morning’s segment on Good Morning America, getting kids to sleep in their own beds has become so difficult it’s costing parents money. Parents like George Stephanopoulos and his wife have turned to sleep therapists to help them get their kids to bed at night.
“Ellie and I are now waving the white flag in our battle to get our kids our of our bed at night, but we know this is not a unique struggle. So how do you get your kids to sleep in their own rooms?”
“You are definitely not alone,” says ABC contributor Cameron Mathison. “Vanessa and I love our kids more than anything else in the whole world, just like you, but our kids, 3 and 6, were sleeping in our bed every single night.”
While the media act all chummy about this problem, the reality is far from funny. The truth is that parental discipline has broken down completely — and the reason for it isn’t merely the parents’ fault. They only parent the way they do because of the politically correct society in which we live.
Being politically correct means being overly sensitive to people’s feelings. It means avoiding the use of certain terminology and always approaching conversation by carefully treading the minefield of people’s emotions — the inference being that there are some people who are so weak and vulnerable, they can’t handle the truth. When it comes to parenting, this viewpoint translates to the idea that the tough love approach to discipline — which requires straightforward talk and firmness in delivery — hurts children’s feelings, crushes their self-esteem, and will cause them to end up in a therapist’s office.
Yet it is parents who are turning to therapists.
Notice Mr. Mathison’s initial response to the problem he and his wife had (they’ve since resolved the problem) with co-sleeping: The first thing he says in defense of himself is that he and his wife “love their kids more than anything else in the whole world.” Why is expressing our love for our children the first thing we think of when talking about discipline? This is the natural outcome when we associate being strict with being less loving. Indeed, today’s parents are confused about how to love their children and discipline them at the same time. They’re so used to the how-does-that-make-you-feel approach society has taught them, they’ve lost parental control.
And there’s no greater loss of control than lying in one’s bed with one’s spouse with children who refuse to leave your space.
The answer to the sleep problem is simple: Never let your children sleep in your bed in the first place. If they’re sick, that’s one thing. If they have a nightmare, that’s another. But after you’ve taken care of their emotional needs, send them back to their rooms. If they get out, then be firm and put them back in their rooms. It will only take 1o trips if you’ve allowed them in your bed in the first place. Don’t allow them in your bed.
This is, admittedly, difficult for parents who’ve been raised to be mushy about communication. It’s also difficult for a generation of parents whose lives are chaotic. When you’re sleep deprived yourself, your defenses are down. The easiest thing to do when conflicts emerge is to let your child do what he wants. But do this long enough and life at home becomes hell.
Parents like George Stephanopoulos don’t need therapists; there’s nothing wrong with their children. The problem is with society — and with parents who’ve succumbed to the pressure. Adults are the ones who have changed; children come into the world exactly the way they always have, and they still need the same thing: tough love.