By: Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT
Reviewed By: Jon Henshaw, M.A.
There are all kinds of parenting styles. Some involve strict rules, and some involve no rules at all. However, the best parenting style usually incorporates authoritative parenting. Authoritative parents usually keep a good balance of rules and flexibility with their children. But what happens when those rules are broken, and an authoritative parent loses their patience?
Hal Edward Runkel, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Atlanta, explores the issues around parents who lose their cool. For Mr. Runkel, losing your cool usually involves screaming. The focus of his latest book, ScreamFree Parenting, is to help parents turn scream into ScreamFree.
scream: to get emotionally reactive with your kids; can take a number of forms, including raising your voice, orbiting your life around theirs, cutting yourself off to avoid watching their mistakes (and then telling them "I told you so"), trying to control their behavior and feelings, or sacrificing yourself for your family and then resenting them when they don't appreciate all your efforts.
ScreamFree: learning to relate with your kids in a calm, cool, and connected way, taking hold of your own emotional responses no matter how your children choose to behave; learning to focus on yourself and take care of yourself for your family's benefit, giving your children the best chance to grow into self-directed adults.
One of my favorite parts of the book was If You're Not under Control, Then You Cannot Be in Charge. The author likens the out-of-control parent to that of the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk, as he points out, struggled with controlling his anger, and once his anger was let out, it was obvious that he was out of control, and not in charge of anything but destruction. Mr. Runkle defines being in charge as "inspiring your children to motivate themselves." He contrasts this ideal with the more common approach of attempting to control your children. He states:
This makes for a radical shift, a shift from controlling your kids' behavior to influencing their decisions. Your goal is not to control but to influence.
Mr. Runkle focuses the rest of his book on concrete ways parents can keep their cool. He gently nudges the reader towards calmer parenting by teaching through example, and continually building his case for healthier approaches to conflict. He does this through educating parents about what they're kids need from them, and then reminds them that they are the ones who set the tone in their home.
In the chapter Let the Consequences Do the Screaming, he reminds parents about consequences, and shows parents how to enforce them (directly and indirectly) without screaming. He believes that screaming gets in the way of natural consequences, and also needlessly creates more of them.
Keeping your cool is no easy task, and the author is fully aware of that. He uses the remainder of the book to focus directly on self-improvement. He knows that before you can permanently and effectively change your behavior with your kids, you have to change yourself first.
I would recommend this book to any parent who struggles with anger and yelling. Parents will find this book easy to read, and will appreciate the real-life examples and concrete instructions that Mr. Runkel includes throughout his book.