Can you parent without screaming? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Can you parent without screaming?
Illustration by Albert G. Rodriguez
Can you parent without screaming?
Illustration by Albert G. Rodriguez

A University of Hampshire study revealed that 98 percent of all parents unleash a psychologically damaging outburst on their children before the age of 5.

“And we know the other 2 percent are just lying about it,” joked Hal Runkel at the 2021 Positive Parenting Summit online.

Runkel is the New York Times bestselling author of “Screamfree Parenting,” “Screamfree Marriage” and “Choose Your Own Adulthood.” He defined “screaming” as emotional reactivity or letting the moment get the best of you. It can be screaming out loud, passive-aggressive shutting down or just giving in to your kids.

Scream-free parenting is a mindset shift, Runkel’s attempt to solve the everyday problems of raising kids by helping parents see things differently, focusing on what they can control: themselves. He said that while it would require us parents to do some uncomfortable looking at ourselves first, it will teach our kids self-control.

The harder you yell

Runkel explained that we don’t respond based on our principles. We react based on our fears, so we end up creating the outcomes we want to avoid. “I’m yelling at my kids because they are not doing what they are told. But the harder they hear me yell, the harder they work to tune me out,” he said. We yell to get a position of authority, but we end up undermining it.When we “lose it,” we act as immaturely as our children, so how can we expect them to respect us? Runkel said that we sacrifice control over ourselves to control them, but what we need is for us to control ourselves and for our kids to control themselves.

He said that when we scream, what we say doesn’t matter. We’re communicating “calm me down,” which means “I’m not in authority over you; you’re in authority over me. I need you to behave better because I can’t.” We’re handing over the family leadership to the least mature members.

So when we’re at the playground, we shouldn’t tell our kids, “It’s time to leave, okay?” as if we’re asking permission to go. Runkel suggested we say instead, “Okay, dude, five minutes and we’re out of here.” Kids will whine, “But I don’t wanna leave!” Counter with, “I know, but it’s gonna be fun when we return.” They will say, “But it’s not fair!” Firmly reply, “I know. But it’s time to go.” He said we can give our kids choices but not authority over us.

Recognize that we’re not in control of our kids, and we’re not sure how they’ll respond. Still, lay out what we’re doing and the consequences if they don’t obey. When we do this, we’re giving our kids clarity with their choices. It shows freedom within limits and leadership.

Most damaging lie

“A lot of us parents believe that we are responsible for our kids and this belief is the most damaging lie about parenting. We need to start thinking of this differently,” said Runkel.

A typical complaint of parents of teens is that they don’t take responsibility for themselves. “Well, why should they? How can they when you’ve taken responsibility for them their whole lives? It becomes the parent’s job to get them to behave.”

It builds our children’s self-esteem when they accomplish things by themselves. He said that just like potty training, we help them learn how to do it, but after, they’re on their own, and you are both free. “We forget this after teaching our kids how to use the potty. Our job is not to manage their behavior. It’s to teach them to manage their behavior,” said Runkel.

In the Middle Ages, you throw a gauntlet to fight. Our kids throw gauntlets at us all the time. Don’t pick it up. It’s how they get us to be responsible for them (“See what you made me do!”). Runkel said they’re testing us to engage us instead of facing the consequences of their actions. It’s not a bad thing, he assured, we test leaders that we want to trust. They want you to pass. He likened it to riding a rollercoaster, strapping on the seatbelt and trying it not because you want it to flop but because you want it to succeed. And, from experience, the testing doesn’t end even beyond university.

Choices and consequences

Can you make a response for your 4-year-old? Ultimately, you want them to decide how to respond. Runkel pointed out that while animals react, humans are the only creatures that can respond and choose to consider the choices and consequences. Therefore, we need to recognize that we’re not responsible for the choices our kids make—they are.

However, we’re responsible to them for their choices when they learn from the consequences. We need to let them make the mistake of the terrible purchase of P3,000 with their birthday money and feel buyer’s remorse so it’s not the pain of P30,000 later on.

Runkel observed that when we have our first child, we read parenting books and do the reward charts and the stickers, but we usually no longer do it for our second kid because it doesn’t work.Our kids’ first expression of having a mind of their own is when they start saying “No!” at 2. He said we shouldn’t beat that out of them. “You want to retain that when they’re 12 and they’re offered pot by a 15-year-old. Or when your 16-year-old daughter is offered a wonderful experience in the backseat of a car by a senior.”

Runkel stressed that parents have a lot of influence, just not any control, so we shouldn’t put our kids in situations designed for them to fail. If they’re the “bilmoko” sort, don’t bring them to the grocery since you can’t expect them to see all these things they want to touch and have but can’t. Also, don’t put them in a place where they have so much power they embarrass you, because then it will make us need them to behave. Kids need parents who do not need them to look good.

Ultimately, we want our children to be able to make decisions on their own. Runkel noted that we sometimes forget that kids are adults-in-waiting, not pets. Our job is to lead them into adulthood. It’s scary thinking of them having more freedom, but allowing them to mess up is how they can build self-esteem and be okay when they recover from their blunders. —Contributed INQ

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