Screamfree Parenting: How to Raise Amazing Adults by Learning to Pause More and React Less

Want a peaceful home? A practical guide for parents with proven principles for overcoming the stress and anxiety of parenting.

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Karsen: From the Parents Club, I’m Karsen Kolnicki. This is your briefing.


Karsen: Today, we’re discussing Screamfree Parenting. Written by Hal Edward Runkel.

If you want a peaceful home, this may be the book for you. In this New York Times best-seller, the author shares a practical, effective guide for parents with kids of all ages. He introduces proven principles for overcoming the stress and anxiety of parenting.

Karsen: Vincent Phamvan on the key takeaways [pause] and what you need to know.


Karsen: Vincent, what’s the secret behind what the author calls Screamfree families?

Vincent: Hal Runkel is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and he argues in this book that if your children make you want to scream, then you’re not alone. He also says though that screaming at your children might make you feel good in the short-term, but that it doesn’t do any good for you or your children.

Karsen: So what does he suggest doing instead?

Vincent: Runkel says that it’s important for parents to focus on their own needs in addition to their children’s needs. He says this will make you feel better, but will also improve your relationships with your children.

Karsen: That’s true that many parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own, so they may be suffering by not taking care of themselves.

Vincent: And that’s not good for anyone, and it doesn’t allow parents to be their best self each day. The author suggests that you can start doing this by changing your parenting style to become proactive.

Karsen: What’s the difference between a proactive and reactive parenting style?

Vincent: Well, when you yell at your child when they do something wrong, you’re reacting to them. He says that if you want to be a scream-free parent, you need to change your ways. One way of doing this is by being proactive and guiding your child in the right direction before they start causing trouble.

Another part of proactive parenting can be done by setting boundaries to make sure that both you and your child have the space that you need. As a parent, you should show your child that you know the difference between being supportive and being overbearing. By doing so, they’ll also be less inclined to do things that make you want to scream.

Karsen: And doing this can help you stay calm while also being engaged as a parent.

Vincent: Yes, exactly. The scream-free approach to parenting is about you as a parent. It’s not focused on your child. So rather than attempting to control your kids’ behavior, its a new approach to start working towards a new scream-free approach to parenting that works for your family.

Karsen: When you say that scream-free parenting starts with giving your children space to grow, what does this mean?

Vincent: Runkel says that children need space to grow, to try new things, and to fail and learn from their experiences. So in order for your children to develop healthy behaviors, they need the right environment to be able to grow.

Karsen: And when Runkel talks about space, is he referring to physical or emotional space for growth?

Vincent: He talks about both physical and emotional space. He says that children thrive when they have room to explore, discover, and make mistakes. One of the first words that children learn is “No.”

Runkel says that when they say no, they mean it, and you as a parent should respect it. He says this is because saying no is their way of creating space for themselves.

Karsen: And the reality is that forcing your ways on your child often doesn’t work anyway.

Vincent: Yes, the author gives the example that forcing your beliefs on your children can backfire. For example, many kids who were told they had to believe in God later rejected it and moved away from their parents’ religion as they got older.

Karsen: So what’s a better approach here?

Vincent: The suggested approach is that children who knew their parents trusted them to make their own decisions about spirituality were often more grateful for it. And instead of forcing control over your children’s lives, you can instead focus on cultivating a great relationship with them instead.

Karsen: When you apply proactive parenting to something like taking a road trip, what would that look like? Kids often won’t stop asking “Are we there yet” or complain about being bored in the car.

Vincent: Kids are really smart, and often test their parents. So when this happens, it can be because they’re testing whether you’ll make a decision for them—by handing them a tablet or game to keep quiet. But this isn’t helping your child grow independently.

Karsen: And so a better approach would be…

Vincent: A better approach would be showing empathy instead of encouraging them to keep doing this in the future. That response might sound like, “I’m so sorry that you’re bored. I really hate being bored too. What are you going to do?”

Karsen: So this would give them the motivation to come up with their own solution.

Vincent: Yes, it’s not the answer they might expect, but it gives them space to learn and grow.

Karsen: How can you set healthy boundaries with consequences for your children?

Vincent: Giving children space can’t exist without boundaries and structure. So you want your child to know that they can have fun and be themselves, but also that you’re the authority.

In turn, parents need to understand their responsibilities as the ones in charge. They should recognize where the control should stop to give freedom to your child. So as a parent, you need to know your place just as much as your child should know theirs.

Karsen: Parents often get frustrated if a child is playing with things that don’t belong to them. Or even worse, they might accidentally break something. How should parents deal with this?

Vincent: Runkel says that parents need to be consistent and clear about what is off-limits. By staying consistent, you can be clear about sticking with their own toys instead of your important papers or expensive laptop.

Another tip is to show your child that their actions have consequences. So if you do this the right way, it’s a great way for children to learn new things. You want to focus on showing empathy and explaining things as soon as possible, instead of threatening them or punishing them when it’s too late.

Karsen: Okay so if your teenage daughter sneaks alcohol from your kitchen, what should you do as a parent?

Vincent: The author suggests that you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to it. Instead, it’s a great opportunity to sit down and talk with her about the dangers of peer pressure and binge drinking.

You can also ask why she decided to start drinking in the first place.

Karsen: That might even uncover something bigger that’s bothering her that she may not have been able to share before.

Vincent: Yes, the author says it’s much better to proactively have this conversation instead of reactively doing nothing until you get a call from the police or hospital later. Punishing her afterwards isn’t going to do much good in preventing this scenario in the first place.

Karsen: It sounds like it’s important to set boundaries with consistent consequences to establish a healthy parent-child relationship.

Vincent: Absolutely, and one last note here is that if you break promises, you’ll lose integrity in your child’s eyes. So it’s important to stay consistent because you don’t want your child to struggle to trust you again.

Karsen: So stay consistent, be up-front, and fair. Doing this will help provide a strong foundation for your relationship. Runkel’s perspective that you should put your own needs before your children’s is different from what many others suggest.

Vincent: It’s kind of like when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendant tells you to put your own mask on before you put on your child’s oxygen mask. You can’t take care of your family if you’re unable to take care of yourself first.

In the twelfth century, there was a French monk named Benard de Clairvaux. In his writing, he talks about the four levels of love.

The first level is about loving yourself for your own benefit.

The second is loving others for your own benefit.

Level three is where you love for their benefit. This is about helping others find joy in being around us, which leads to the fourth level of love—loving yourself for the benefit of others.

The author says that Clairvaux’s fourth level of love is what parents should strive to reach. This is where you care for your own health, self-worth, and happiness in order to allow you to give your children the stable and loving relationship that they need.

Karsen: That’s a really great perspective. Something parents often struggle with is comparing their family or children to others, as if it were a competition. How should parents think instead?

Vincent: Reframing these thoughts is healthy, and Runkel says you have to trust yourself. You may second guess yourself as to whether you’re being too harsh or too soft in certain situations, but it’s a learning process and it’s different for every family. He suggests that you should keep your focus on your parenting and stick to what you feel is right for your family.

Karsen: It sounds like the key takeaway from this book is that scream-free parenting takes a proactive approach to set up boundaries, space, and consequences to support your child and help them grow. In order to do this, parents must learn to love themselves first while believing in their own ability as a parent.


Karsen: That’s it for your briefing. I’m Karsen Kolnicki. See you next time.


Want a peaceful home? This practical, effective guide for parents with kids of all ages introduces proven principles for overcoming the stress and anxiety of parenting, forged in the personal trenches of countless Screamfree families.

If you’re like most parents, what you want right now is pretty simple: an effective plan for getting your kids to behave and be happy. You’re probably looking for something else as well – something a little deeper. Like many other parents all over the world, you want to know you’re doing a good job. You want to feel like you can handle anything. You want to feel confident, competent, and hopeful for the future, for both your kids and yourself. (Oh, and along the way, you’d like a little peace, quiet, and respect as well.)

All of the above are possible, even probable if you can learn to become “Screamfree.” You can have the structured, rewarding home life you’ve always craved, with respectful kids who are responsible for their own actions. All you have to do is learn to pause, so you can respond more and react less. It really is that simple. Once you learn to control your own emotions and behavior, your children will soon learn how to control theirs.

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