Scream Free Parenting

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How to Stay Calm and Make Better Parenting Choices

Hal Runkel and his family decided to have breakfast at the Waffle House one Saturday morning. As they settled in, they were given coloring books and paper hats, just like the ones the cooks wear.

“After placing our order, our 2-year-old, Brandon, started to get restless,” shares Runkel, a marriage and family therapist, and author of the book “ScreamFree Parenting.” “Nothing seemed to make him happy. The waitress brought him a waffle, but it accidentally ended up on the leg of the man sitting at the table next to us. In my attempt to take Brandon outside, I unintentionally hit the same man on the head with Brandon’s leg. By then, everyone in the restaurant was watching. As I stormed out, the door slammed behind me, shaking the glass.”

“Outside, I stood there, fist shaking, and yelled at my son. When we eventually returned inside, I sat back down and noticed my wife trying to stifle a smile. It was then that I realized I still had the Waffle House hat on my head. It was obvious that I looked ridiculous, but the truth is, I didn’t need the hat to make me look foolish.”

Runkel argues that in many situations, it’s not the children who are acting foolishly, but rather the parents themselves.

## Becoming a Composed Parent

Being a ScreamFree parent is not about striving for perfection or possessing flawless techniques to raise impeccable children. You don’t have to have all the right answers at all times to be the parent you want to be. What matters most is learning how to stay calm.

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“I firmly believe that effective parenting is all about reclaiming control over your own emotional responses,” says Runkel. “Parents must ensure that no matter what their children do, they are the adults in every situation.”

“When a parent starts screaming, what they’re really saying is, ‘Calm me down, I can’t handle what you’re doing right now.’ At that moment, the parent loses control and hands over emotional control to the least mature person in the household.”

According to Runkel, when parents focus on managing their own emotional reactions, they start making parenting decisions based on their core values rather than reacting out of fear.

## Six Keys to Becoming a ScreamFree Parent

Here are the six essential principles to becoming a ScreamFree parent:

  • Respect your child’s personal and emotional space. Recognize that children are individuals with their own lives, choices, and futures.
  • Avoid preaching or issuing threats. Allow the consequences of your child’s choices to speak for themselves.
  • Advocate for your child’s development. Support and encourage their growth.
  • Change your way of speaking. Avoid labeling and pigeonholing your children’s identity. Labels can be harmful and should be avoided.
  • See yourself as responsible to your children, not for them. For instance, if your child throws a tantrum at the store, you are not responsible for their behavior, but you are responsible for how you handle it.
  • Recognize that the best thing you can do for your children is focus on yourself.

“What every child desires is a parent who can stay composed, even in heated moments,” Runkel asserts. “Children want parents who are less anxious and prone to knee-jerk reactions and far more level-headed. Your children want you to remain unshaken, even when they lose control. The biggest challenge for most parents is managing their own emotional reactions. That’s why the best thing we can do for our children is to focus on ourselves, not them.”

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For more insights on this topic, check out this JulieB TV episode!

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