My third and final post on Hal Edward Runkel’s “Screamfree Parenting”. If you are interested in reading more but not ready to purchase, download a sample here. Or do what I did; go to the library and check it out. I found the book useful enough to purchase.
- Each family member has a place in the family hierarchy. Runkel uses the example of a table. Parents set the table by setting the tone. Stability and structure are important in the home and children need it. At the table each child is accepted as an individual but expected to act as a member of the family. The question, Runkel asks, is will you set the place with your principled decisions or your anxious activity.
- Stability and structure are necessary in the home. The author states he is not referring to punishment and discipline. Calm, consistency, and commitment. (I believe this is difficult because parents lack the elements in their own lives.)
- Each family tries to work out a “balance”. I.e. Father is the disciplinarian, mother is the fun one or vice versa. Some balances work better than others but all families have them. Blurring the “personal” and “business” side of parenting weakens the effectiveness of parents.
- Runkel relates the story of a father and a bike he bought his daughter. She left it outside every night, even after he told her she had to bring it in. For a long time he would get frustrated when she left it out and then bring it in for her. Finally he had a calm talk with her. She had a choice. Leave the bike out and he would bring it to Goodwill in the morning or put the bike up every night. It was her choice.
- Parenting presents the dilemma of providing structure for our children while our children try claiming as much territory as possible. Children want parents to give in yet they also want them to hold firm.
- When introducing structure after lacking it many families experience struggles. For instance, a family may have no structure for dinner time. Family members may eat when they can. If the parents decide they are going to have a structured dinner time everyone gets upset. They are swinging from one extreme to another. Finding a balance between structured times and allowance of exceptions is important. For instance maybe occasionally the family will break out the TV Trays.
Let the Consequences Do the Screaming
- Our choices have consequences. This is a bedrock truth in life.
- We grow by experiencing the consequences of our actions. The polio vaccine is actually a small dose of polio. Your body builds an immunity from that vaccine. By shielding our children from the consequences of their actions when they are young we set them up for difficulties later in life when they will face the consequences of their actions.
- Runkel relates the story of a mother who brought her teenage daughter to school every day. The daughter was frequently late, in turn making the mother late. The mother decided “enough”, if her daughter wasn’t ready, she would leave without her and her daughter could walk to school. One day her daughter called asking what was for lunch. Her daughter had not gone to school. The mother told her to walk and let her know she would not get an excuse for being tardy. As a result the daughter received 0’s and an unexcused absence. Homecoming was that week and any student with an unexcused absence was not permitted to attend. The mother was faced with either allowing her daughter to go by writing an excuse (lying for her) or letting the consequences affect her. Her daughter, the daughter’s date, even the woman’s son were all saying the punishment didn’t fit the crime. But the question comes down to the consequences in the world at large. In this case the “world at large” is the school. The school had consequences and the daughter had to endure them. It is better to learn as a teenager than as an adult. Later the mother spoke calmly and clearly to her daughter, explaining her position, and her own hurt for the daughter’s situation. She offered to take her daughter and date to the movies in place of homecoming.
- Everyone feels the pain when children must face the consequences of their actions. In order for parents to deal with the consequences (a frustrated child) parents must calm themselves down.
- Letting children fail must match their age. We wouldn’t let our child play in the street at age two. What about seventeen? If a seventeen year old is driving recklessly, should a parent hire a lawyer to fight the charges or let the child face the consequences of their actions? Runkel tells the story of a father and son who were both pulled over on separate occasions for reckless driving. The father could have hired a lawyer for them both. Instead he accepted the consequences just as his son had to.
- Learning from mistakes is the most important things a child can learn. Consequences are a source of great learning.
- Calming ourselves while we watch our children make mistakes and do stupid things is one of the most important things we can do.
On Keeping Promises
- In haste, the author promised his daughter when she turned 11 they would get a dog. He states they will get a dog since they keep their promises. This works in reverse. If you say “I am taking away this toy if you do not stop” you should take it away if the behavior does not stop.
- Thinking through decisions before you make them will help you remain calm and be consistent.
What Does it Mean to Be Selfish?
- Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do to be a great parent.
- “I take care of me so you don’t have to”. This allows the parent to operate from a position of “whole”ness.
- The only way to intentionally change our habits is to change ourselves. Like exercise, we must focus on ourselves.
- We, in the West, do not feel we have a right to treat ourselves well. Sacrificing yourself for others in order for them to validate your life does not make sense. The person who loves themselves does not need to be validated by others and can truly love others without needing something from the other party.
- If we do not find ways to make time for ourselves we will make it happen in other ways (spending time on the computer, staying out, etc). Plan intentional retreats, get a pedicure, learn a musical instrument, follow your dreams, exercise, etc.
On Revolutionary Relationships
- We are more comfortable in the known, even in misery, than the unknown.
- In relationships we form patterns. When we try to break those patterns we encounter resistance. Others will attempt to get you back into your old patterns. People want things to be “normal”, or as they are accustomed to things being.
- Take control of yourself.