What I’m Reading: I-guess-I-have-to-actually-parent-now edition

8 May

Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your CoolScreamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My kid isn’t even two yet, but he’s very precocious when it comes to misbehavior. When he started throwing tantrums at the ripe young age of 10 months (what’s next, cigarettes under his bed at 9?), I knew I needed to find a discipline strategy I could live with. For me, that meant no spanking or rule by force, but not letting him run the house either. I grabbed this book along with a stack of others at the local library, and let me tell you, I will be purchasing it to keep forever.

“Scream-free” is a catch-all phrase for reactionary behavior of any kind. Screaming, sure, but also running away, crying (hello, me), or any kind of response based in emotion. It’s a check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself kind of theory.

The root philosophy is that you can’t control any other person besides yourself, even a very small person. Nor would you want to, if you want that little person to grow up self-sufficient and responsible. Runkel clearly and simply explains strategies for taking a step back from bad behavior, turning everything into a learning experience for yourself first, so that your children can learn from you. He talks about being responsible TO your children instead of FOR your children, releasing you of the burden of micro-managing them (and releasing them of the burden of keeping you happy and calm).

Thankfully, it’s not a NO-discipline book: he advocates laying down basic expectations and boundaries, and enforcing or allowing natural consequences of not meeting those. But the child has their own age-appropriate freedom within wider limits that you set. There’s no training techniques reminiscent of housebreaking a dog, or comparing children to lab rats (both things I have actually read in other parenting books), and there’s no reverse psychology or any other mind-messing stuff.

One of the tenets of Scream-Free Parenting is sure to be point of contention: that children should have privacy. There is a strong vein of thought among modern parents that children living at home do not have a right to privacy of any kind, up to and including diaries and emails, due to safety concerns. While I do totally understand that point of view, and I do think keeping your child safe is your first job as a parent, I disagree that that is best accomplished by being all up in every aspect of their lives. Maybe it’s because my own parents allowed me age-appropriate privacy without my even asking, which filled me preteen soul with grateful relief. And while I’m sure I did and wrote some things that would they would worry about or disapprove of, I never got into serious trouble as a kid. Their trust made me want to be trustworthy. I compare it to punching in on a time clock at work. Studies have suggested that micromanaging a worker’s time makes that employee less loyal and more likely skirt the rules. In other words, empowering an individual results in better choices and self-motivation. I think the same applies to children.

All in all, the idea is to begin with the end in mind, which is something I latched on to even when I was preggers. The end, in this case, is the kind of adult your want your child to become. If you want your child to learn to play games (like one book I read that suggested when your kid misbehaves, deny them the next time they want something without explanation, and wait until they figure out the two are connected), then you trick or bribe him into behaving well. If you want your child to learn to take responsibility for his actions, you let consequences happen. (You got a speeding ticket? You have to use your savings to pay it instead of buying a new iThing).  Above all, you don’t let your child’s actions and feelings determine your own, or dictate the emotional climate of your home.

I do think this book is most helpful for parents of older children (like the above)–there’s not a lot that would be extremely useful for toddler-specific behavior problems. All the same, I’ve very glad I read it BEFORE my child is a teenager, so I’m prepared. Plus, since it’s a parenting philosophy and not a bag of tricks, it truly pertains to parents of all ages. In fact, it describes a way of relating to others that could be applied to anyone in your life, from friends to parents to spouses. Did I agree with every single thing he said? No. But you get the feeling reading it that you are more than capable of figuring out what works for you and chucking the rest. I truly am inspired to be a better parent after reading this book.

View all my reviews

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2 Responses to “What I’m Reading: I-guess-I-have-to-actually-parent-now edition”

  1. rachelwhims May 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    A couple weeks ago I got a paranoid feeling that my Kindle was spying on me when it suggested this book to me! I. Am. A. Screamer. I didn’t really look into the book, but after your review I might just give it a try. Nice blog!

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  1. Did You Miss Me? | Dree Speaks Freely - May 30, 2013

    […] What I’m Reading: I-guess-I-have-to-actually-parent-now edition (janielyoung.com) […]

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