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The Big Answer


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Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool

a book by Hal Edward Runkel

(our site's book review)

Hal Runkel is a world-renowned expert on helping families face conflict and create great relationships. A licensed therapist, relationship coach, international speaker, and organizational consultant, Hal is the bestselling author of ScreamFree Parenting, and the newly released ScreamFree Marriage. Runkel says that parents should take stock of themselves. Are they in control of their behavior when they interact with their children? Or are they at the mercy of their "emotional reactivity," i.e., their unthinking knee-jerk reactions? If the latter is true, parent-child interactions will be tense, angry, and unproductive.

Someone needs to read 'ScreamFree Parenting'
Someone needs to read 'ScreamFree Parenting'

Like so much of life, things tend to work well if one is at cause and to work poorly if one is at effect. The more you can see that your reacting is about your own childhood's emotional pain and abuse and deprivations, the more you can see that insight about yourself is the key to effective relationships with your kids—relationships that are not about power and control and "misbehavior" but about keeping your cool by insight into your past and your present emotions and hangups. The key here is consciousness—being at cause and aware that conscious, thoughtful, aware choices are the key to becoming a self-directed adult.

A ScreamFree parent facilitates rather than dictates; he encourages his children to use their own resources to solve problems. By helping kids to get in the habit of making their own decisions and living with the consequences, parents will be more likely to launch "self-directed" adults. The best way to help kids is to become a model to emulate, a model that embodies consciousness—being at cause and aware and making conscious, thoughtful, aware choices. A ScreamFree parent will never resort to autocratic control with the behaviorists' rewards and punishments methods, since s/he may get lots of "obedience," but at what price? Autonomy.

This autocratic method called behaviorism isn't even embarrassed when it brags how well one can CONTROL one's kids with its methods. Are kids no different than the rats in the behaviorists' laboratories?
This autocratic method called behaviorism isn't even embarrassed when it brags how well one can CONTROL one's kids with its methods. Are kids no different than the rats in the behaviorists' laboratories?

Besides, when you get right down to it, the only person you can control is yourself. It's sad that the behaviorists have piles of research, studies, and evidence that their rewards and punishments methods are best because they are the most effective. But when you dig into this research, you find out that their definition of "most effective" is whatever causes kids to be the most obedient, and their "evidence" is higher obedience scores than other methods. This autocratic method called behaviorism isn't even embarrassed when it brags how well one can CONTROL one's kids with its methods. Are kids no different than the rats in the behaviorists' laboratories? But then it tries to say all this controlling will teach kids how to control themselves. This is not true. It's circular reasoning to say "see how well he's controlling himself? I taught him that by controlling him." But when you ask for evidence of his great self-control, they point to obedience. A good example of an autocratic parenting method based on behavioristic rewards and punishments is Every Parent: A positive approach to children’s behaviour: Triple P (Positive Parenting Program).

These folks need to learn the difference between the following words: EMPOWERING and OVERPOWERING. Overpowering with punishments and rewards creates extrinsic control (inner-directedness [superego] and other-directedness [peers and media]). NEITHER of these are true, intrinsic, self-control. Neither represent autonomy. Inner-direction sounds like self-control, but it isn't. It's control by the superego which is parental sanctions, not inner self sanctions. Superegos are supposed to be temporary structures with which you temporarily take parental sanctions as your own, but then you slowly abandon this crutch as you form your own sanctions in your autonomous self. Unfortunately, if you subscribe to the rewards and punishments in behaviorist thinking, your kids will be at a great disadvantage when they try to achieve autonomy.

Screaming and yelling at kids is a behavioristic punishment that spanks kids and parents alike, since both parties end up feeling bad and upset and—often—guilty.

Screaming and yelling at kids is a behavioristic punishment that spanks kids and parents alike, since both parties end up feeling bad and upset
Screaming and yelling at kids is a behavioristic punishment that spanks kids and parents alike, since both parties end up feeling bad and upset

Another guy that mistakenly utilizes punishments and rewards is John Gottman, who wrote a good book called Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child wherein he teaches emotion coaching, which is effective stuff. Beyond Discipline and Discipline That Works are just a couple of the books which have shown the results of dozens of researchers who've confirmed how effective democratic parenting is compared to autocratic parenting, and how parent-empowered self-control in kids promotes autonomy and self-actualization better than parental controls like behaviorism's punishments and rewards.

Runkel avoids behavioristic punishments (shown) and rewards and instead focuses on how to raise a self-directed child
Runkel avoids behavioristic punishments (shown) and rewards and instead focuses on how to raise a self-directed child

ScreamFree Parenting has good tips that you can apply to every relationship in your life, not just with your children. Runkel avoids behavioristic punishments and rewards and instead focuses on how to raise a self-directed child who makes his own decisions and is responsible for them. To be in charge as a parent is to be able to inspire your kids to motivate themselves. You want, not to control them, but to influence them. Thomas Gordon, author of P.E.T. Parent Effectiveness Training, says the same thing, and they're both asolutely right.

Runkel reminds us of the safety instructions we are given before an airplane takes off: In case of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before you put it on the infant or small child with whom you are traveling. Why? Because we need to be oxygenated and conscious to actively help someone else. So an alternative name for his book could have been Conscious Parenting. As mentioned, things tend to work well if one is at cause and to work poorly if one is at effect. A conscious person is at cause, not reacting to others. So . . . influence kids, don't CONTROL kids. This is only possible when you're not yelling, because when you scream, kids are both influencing you AND controlling you—the opposite of what you desire!