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Thursday, January 17, 2013

book - ScreamFree Parenting

ScreamFree Parenting - Raising your kids by keeping your cool by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT

This was an interesting book. It is a bit religious, randomly throughout the book references to church, but not so much that if you aren't into that sort of thing it would deter you away from the book. Well-written, easy to read, with simple tips for calming yourself down when stressed in the moment. I admit some of it was confusing to me. The author refers to the fact that some parents yell at their kids or snap at them and lack patience is because parents are anxious, not because perhaps we're just plain annoyed or angry or tired. That part I still don't get after reading the book, but overall the tips in this book are useful to any parent, even if you aren't a yeller.

It's about US
The first page says a lot about what this book discusses: "Parenting is not about kids, it's about parents." The author continued to say that the best thing parents can do for their kids is to focus on themselves.

-"...emotional reactivity is our worst enemy when it comes to having great relationships," he said on page 11. Runkel says this is our biggest battle as parents - not drugs and alcohol, peers, etc. with our kids, but rather our own emotional reactions to what our kids do.

-"Reactive intimidation" does not work long term and hurts the relationship with you and your child.

-"If we want to be influential, then we have to first bring ourselves under control. Only then can we choose our response. Only then can we choose how we want to behave, regardless of how our children choose to behave," Runkel said. (page 13)

- "Becoming a ScreamFree parent involves growing self-awareness, a greater sense of self-direction, and an increased willingness to take personal responsibility for your actions, regardless of the actions of those around you," he wrote on page 18.

A bit nervous
-He said that we are anxious of how things happen, of not being in control. But if we lose our cool, then we as parents are not in control any longer despite feeling like we are when we're yelling. He said how parents handle their anger, frustration, etc. directly impacts how their kids react and act overall.

-He encourages parents to take parenting as a challenge and accept that growth will come, maturity will happen in ourselves if we put in the effort and patience and self-awareness toward our flaws and try to make them better.

- "Whenever we give in to our anxiety, we create the very outcome we're hoping to avoid," Runkel wrote (page 31). Essentially, when we start yelling and snapping at kids and demanding things and giving ultimatums, then we turn into the thing we didn't want our kids to do in the first place. If you match a temper tantrum with another temper tantrum, what does that get you? Nothing but frustration.

-As a middle school counselor I hear this one ALL the time from the adolescents I work with: "What you want is for your kids to talk with you, share their lives with you. You send mixed signals when you overreact to the information they disclose. If you want your kids to eliminate you as a resource for guidance and support, then by all means, stop growing. Continue to escalate in your reactions and allow your emotions to guide your responses. However, if you want to be the calm influence, the 'cool' parent your children really need, then do everyone a favor and keep growing up," Runkel wrote (page 34). Pretty blunt, but oh-so-true.

-"Kids are going to act out the anxiety that exists within their family system ... if you want to feel calm in your family, that calm starts with you," he wrote on page 34.

How is it done?
-Runkel suggests that in order to stay in charge of our kids we have to "inspire them to motivate themselves." It's not doing it all for them. It means giving our kids space, choices, freedom, decisions to make. It means not being the boss, yet guiding them so ultimately we are in charge. (page 43)

-" When you scream at your kids, when you get emotionally reactive, you communicate one single message : CALM ME DOWN! No matter what words are actually coming out of your mouth, no matter how long your tirade is, no matter how old your child is, when you scream the message is always the same: CALM ME DOWN! Whenever you react to your child's behavior by screaming, you are actually begging them to help you calm your anxiety. You are saying you just cannot handle the fact they will not obey or listen or calm down themselves. You cannot handle this, so you flip out," Runkel wrote (page 44).
     Continuing he wrote that we put it all on our kids when we are having a reaction to their behaviors... something that seems totally unfair. When we scream we're saying, "I need you to comply or else I'm going to lose it. And when I lose it, I'm going to need you to comply so I can calm back down. All my emotional responses are up to you," (page 45). It sounds ridiculous written that way, and yet so many parents find themselves in the situation of raising your voice because you think it's the only way to get the respect or compliance you need in that moment. Runkel said this is way too much pressure for a 4-year-old or 14-year-old. That does not work.

-Creating boundaries, space and time helps to cool down.

-Teaching kids to do it on their own is helpful. "If you want your children to become self-directed adults, you have to face the truth that you cannot do it for them." (page 73)

- "What children need most are parents who do not need them.What children need most is for their parents to be the first ones who see them as individuals in their own right, with their own lives and decisions and futures. Children were not put on this earth to make us parents feel loved, warm, respected or appreciated. They were put here to become themselves by becoming self-directed adults. And they need for us to create enough space for them to do that," Runkel wrote (page 77).

Someone once told me when I was pregnant with my first child that the hardest thing about parenting is realizing that every single thing we do as parents is to help them to grow away from us and become individuals who eventually leave us.
That is heart-wrenching to think about, but consider it. Starting from the second we clap at our babies reaching for toys for the first time or saying their first words, rolling over and crawling, or encouraging them to walk. It's all so they can become independent. That's hard to accept in the end. Yet it's necessary and such important work for us to do as parents.

Give kids their space.
-Give them a room and let it be theirs. Don't continue to act like it's yours by barging in, knock first. Or telling them how to keep it cleaned or organized, let them do that - or not do it, it's up to them. They need this one space to feel how they feel, say what they want, do what they want (with parameters of course), Runkel explained on page 84.

-You must give respect to gain it. You have to "initiate and model it toward your child."
-Stop asking them how they feel and demanding to receive an answer. Most times kid don't know how they feel anyhow, so you asking doesn't help it. If you ask once and they say they don't know, don't push it.
-Stop asking "why." It doesn't help in the moment of when your child has done something wrong.

They need us. - Tips on how to help them.
-Kids are constantly testing us. "In doing so, he is not plotting an invasion or laying an ambush. He, instead, is testing you to see if you can be trusted. He is testing you so that he can see that you are dependable, stable, and consistent. And trust me, he desperately needs you to pass," Runkel wrote (page 98).

-Side with your child and ask how they are going to handle dilemmas instead of solving their problems very time. "Wow, you're bored? That stinks. I hate it when I'm bored. What are you going to do about it?"

-Use empathy. Instead of telling your kid to be quiet because we are not there yet, it's another hour in the car, empathize with them by showing them you get how they feel, "Wow, you're already asking that question if we are there yet? You must really not want to be in the car today."

-Do NOT hover when your child is doing homework. Remember it's their homework, not yours. Empathize ("That does look like a hard problem") and encourage they find a way to solve it ("Can you call someone in class to help you out?"). "Our child's homework is supposed to make them struggle. It is designed to be difficult for them. That's the whole point!" (page 103)

-Your child won't come inside. Instead of saying "Oh yes you will or else!" you give him space, say something like "Wow I can tell you really don't want to come inside and you are feeling something pretty big about that right now. I'll give you a minute." Then you go inside. Go back out and give two choices - come inside or if not there is a consequence, you decide... kids inevitably go inside.

-Ask "What motivates my child? What does he really want?" Therein lies your answers most of the time for getting compliance. (page 107)

-Stop talking about your kids. Stop comparing them to others. It doesn't help at all. "Whenever we label our children, we severely limit their space."

-Parents are NOT always right. Really stop to consider your child's point of view.

-Use realistic language. "No one is ever always anything." Stop using "you ALWAYS" do this or "you NEVER do that." This is a good tip for communicating with your partner also.

-Stability and structure are important. Have routines, expectations, clear and realistic ideas about how things should be done. And communicate. (page 138)

-Have fun with your kids AND be their authority in their little worlds. It can be done and it's necessary to do. (page 140) 

"There is a personal side to parenting and a business side." 
I LOVE THAT. So true, really makes sense in my head.

-"Let the consequences do the screaming." Not you!

-"The more our children are exposed to the small consequences of their small infractions, the less they will have to commit large infractions and experience large consequences." (page 158) Again, be consistent, start early and follow through.

-"Empty threats are really broken promises." (page 169). By doing what you say you are showing your kids that there is order in the world, people are held accountable to one another, authority can be trusted, words and actions have power, promises matter, Runkel wrote on page 171.

-Don't set a consequence that is "tougher for you to enforce than it is for them to endure."
-Don't set consequences that are unrealistic for you to follow through on.
-Don't set consequences you don't want to do (like not going somewhere).
-You cannot skimp out or have shortcuts for discipline. It's supposed to be hard. You cant get around it.

Take care of you.
It's so important for us to remember to put on our oxygen mask first before helping others, Runkel wrote.
He said to imagine what it would be like if we treated our kids the way we treated ourselves... packing our kids a donut and stale cold coffee for lunch instead of something with all food groups, fresh veggies and fruits, etc. and a note inside. He said we need to start caring for ourselves the way we put so much energy and love into caring for our family. I've never heard it put this way, what a great way of seeing this idea that WE matter!

Overall TONS of great ideas. It was good to examine some of the things we do for discipline. It's good to be reminded of some things I know we're doing right also. 

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