As promised here is the second entry in my review of “ScreamFree Parenting”.
Rather than rewrite the book I’ve cleaned up my notes, deleted the extraneous, and bullet pointed for easy reading. As a new parent I’m still processing much of what author Hal Runkel writes. If you read the notes and are intrigued, get the book. Everything is spelled out in greater detail. You might come away with a completely different take or find tips that didn’t even blip on my radar. Enjoy.
Introduction to “Screamfree Parenting”
- The author’s goal is “to restore the proper place of children and parents in the home”.
- Parents tend to focus too much on their children.
- Parent’s anxiety causes many of the problems in the child/parent relationship.
- “Parenting is not about kids, it’s about parents”. Turn the focus on yourself, not the child. By focusing on yourself you will have a healthier happier relationship with your family.
- Biggest struggle as parents is dealing with our own emotions, knee-jerk reactions.
- We are responsible “for” our children – the most damaging lie about parenting. Runkel makes a distinction and says we are responsible “to” our children.
- Most parenting focuses on getting parents to think, feel, or behave the right way. Runkel states this is not our job. The current parenting paradigm states “either program your child properly or they will fail”.
- Many parents try to teach lessons to their children. However, the parents have not learned these lessons.
- Children must be free to make their own decisions. Otherwise they will not learn from the consequences of their actions.
- Eliminate “Pick your battles” from your vocabulary. Runkel says children test us to see if we can be trusted. Remember, it’s not Waterloo. Your child wants to see if you can be trusted. Are you consistent? This is what they are looking for.
- Parenting is not a series of techniques. Parenting is a special kind of relationship between a parent and a child. Force or power are the ways to “win” in life. In the family dynamic it creates an endless cycle of fighting.
What We’re Really Screaming
- When we’re screaming the message sent to our children is “calm me down!”.
- We begin to “orbit” around our children when our reactions are dictated by our children.
- Parenting is hard yet rewarding.
- Having a child is like dying/re-birth. You will never be the same after having a child.
- Re-activity usually produces the reaction we are trying to prevent.
- By struggling and having challenges we provide examples for our children to learn how to deal with stress and anxiety. Being a grown up does not eliminate challenges or mean we will deal with them “rationally”.
- The more you focus on the result of your child becoming X the less chance they will turn out that way. The child has a difficult time focusing on their own outcome.
- Launch child into adulthood where they can be successful and work independently.
- For example: For Christians, parents push their faith so much they can push their children away from the faith. Runkel recommends having conversations/making opportunities to have conversations rather than forcing children into the faith. The child will grow and one day have to make this decision for themselves. Otherwise they will have a “borrowed faith”.
- Children, like all people, need space in life to make their own decisions.
- Creating space = creating some separation. Many parents object. The author asks, “when will you honor your children’s right to space? When they can drive, get married, etc”. Examples given, do not force children to hug as they get older (especially fathers/daughters), allow children to close their doors, and offering to purchase a diary for your child(ren) and promising never to read it.
- It is not our job to change our child’s hearts by telling them how to feel. Telling brings about rebellion. One example the author used was a mother who noticed her child was sad. The mother said “I see you’re sad. Let me know when you’re feeling better”.
- Another example about space: A child said they were too tired to clean their room. The parent said “Ok, you don’t have to, it’s your room”. The child was shocked. Runkel says “We can’t on one hand call it “their” room then dictate every detail about it.
- Stop asking “why” when your child does something wrong. It puts the child on the defense. If they could tell you why would you feel better or worse about your child’s actions?
- Rarely look a child in eye when talking to them as it causes the child to feel vulnerable. Only do this at sensitive times and use sparingly.
- Let kids disagree with you. Respect their arguments.
- Regarding homework: Rather than being responsible for their homework, when they ask for help, ask who they can talk to in their class. Let them struggle. Doing their homework is like lifting weights for them. There should be some struggle.
- Runkel tells the story of a parent trying to help their child put on a pair of tights. The child can’t get them on by herself. “Do you want me to help you?” the mother asks. The daughter says “No”. The mother says “OK honey, let me know if there is anything I can do to help you”. The daughter replies “But mommy, I can’t get them on!” The mother repeats her statement “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”. Her daughter went back back to her room and figured it out herself.
- Anxiety drives our need to predict our child’s destiny. Stop labeling your children, even with positive labels. Examples given “gifted, full of potential, funny, lazy, high maintenance, laid back, strong willed, melodramatic troublemaker, skinny, big boned, the star, the black sheep, etc.
- Labels are usually based on some observable patterns that occur. Just because a child exhibits some behavior at some point does not justify labeling as such for the rest of their life.
- “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief”. – Gerry Spence
- Labeling helps us structure, understand our world. Are all labels damaging? Even repeated labels that don’t sound like bad things (funny, hard working) may cause your child to believe it is their place in the family, hence stunting their development. By not labeling we give the gift of discovery.
- Because your child struggles in school one year does not mean they will struggle every year. Take works like “Always, never, all the time,” out of your vocabulary. (Jenn and I heard this in our pre-marriage counseling). Instead, use “Can be..” You sure can be dramatic when you want to be…” instead of “You are always so dramatic…”.
- When we choose a parenting style different than our parents they usually take that as an indictment of their parenting style. The need for your parents input should decrease as you get older. Grow relationship with parents to an adult/adult level rather than child/parent level if you have not done so already.
One moving passage in the book was a story about a father and daughter. The mother died after the parents separated. The daughter had to move in with her father and his new family. During school one day they created mother’s day cards. The daughter broke down in class and her father went to get her. Rather than acting on his feelings (inconvenienced) he took his daughter out of school and told her they could still do send a message to mommy. The father bought helium balloons, put the message on the balloons set his watch’s timer, and listened to his daughter’s feelings as the timer on his watch counted down. When the timer went off his daughter asked if the message had reached mommy. He said yes. During that time he was able to listen to his daughter without interjecting, in turn strengthening their relationship.
Check back soon for the third and final entry in my “screamfree” review.