No More Screaming at Your Teen
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
CBN.com The teenage years can be a turbulent time for teens and parents alike. But not every exchange with your teen needs to turn into a shouting match, says parenting expert Hal Runkel. He offers help for weary parents in his new book Screamfree Parenting.
Runkel believes that parents should strive to parent their kids the way God parents us. One of the most important things for parents to remember, he says, is to stay calm.
“Throughout the Old Testament, God is the one who is quick to forgive, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,” Runkel says. “And that’s a great model for us. Just the slow to anger part, that’s really what screamfree parenting is about. It’s just recognizing that I have to be in control of me.”
Create a Pause
In the midst of an argument sometimes it is best to step away and take some time to calm down, what Runkel calls creating a pause. If parents overreact, it can actually make the situation worse.
“They need us as parents to see beyond this and see it for what it is,” he says. “It’s a teenager going through hormonal struggles, going through natural struggles in life. What do they need most from me? To be calm. Now they may be saying things that make it really difficult for me to stay calm. That’s why it’s even more my job to stay calm. To let them see that you know what, whims of your life as a teenager are not automatically going to drive the emotional bus of the entire family. It’s not that powerful.”
He also says it’s important for parents to realize that they don’t always have to respond to a situation immediately. It may be better to wait a few hours or even a few days before addressing a teen’s misbehavior.
“When you’re training a dog you need to attach some discipline to the behavior right then and there because dogs don’t have memories,” Runkel says. “You don’t need to do that with kids. We’re not raising pets; we’re raising grown ups. The last thing we need to do is think, ‘I have to do it right now.’ That puts us in this tense mode, which is going to translate this tense energy over to them and they’re going to respond back to us in kind. So my number one job is to just stay calm, create a pause.”
As parents, Hal says, the goal is to help your children develop into a self-directed, responsible adults. For that to happen, they have to be allowed to make decisions on their own.
“Your (child’s) job is to make a choice. ‘You can do your homework, or you can not do your homework. Here’s what’s going to happen if you do,’ which is very similar to what God does. ‘You can eat of the tree of life, and you can live forever in the garden. You can eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here’s what’s going to happen if you do.’”
And parents need to stick to the consequences they set. In his book, Runkel says that empty threats are really broken promises that teach teens that authority figures can’t be trusted.
“None of us would say this summer we’re going to go to Disney world and then when it comes to it we don’t really follow through on that. None of us wants to break that promise to our kids, but that’s exactly what we do to our kids when we say, ‘If you talk like that to me again, then you’re going to lose your cell phone,’ and then we don’t do it.
Don't Be So Quick to Rescue
And as painful as it can be to watch teens suffer the consequences of poor choices, it’s crucial if they are to learn to take responsibility for themselves. A parent’s role is to be an ally.
“Being an ally to our kids does not mean rescuing them from the consequences,” Runkel says. “It means gently ushering them into those consequences. Tell them, ‘This is going to be really tough. You got bad grades and according to the school that means you can’t play football, and that’s going to be really, really hard. I want to walk with you through it.’”
Reaffirm Your Love
And regardless of the choices that teens make, parents need to let them know that they still love them.
“That’s one of the great things about God. Even when we’re expelled from the garden, we’ve now become mortal, and yet (God says) ‘I’m still with you. I’m not going to let you go. I’m still going to walk with you, even as you have to suffer these consequences. I’m still going to walk alongside you.’ Well, that’s a great way for us to parent our kids.”
Respect Their Spaces
Runkel also says it’s important to teach teens respect for others by respecting their spaces at home. This includes not reading their personal information like diaries and not forcing them to keep their rooms a certain way.
“If I want my daughter to have the self respect to fend off the pawing hands of a boyfriend when she’s 18, how am I going to treat my daughter now?,” Runkel says. “My daughter is about to be 11, how am I going to treat her now -- her physical space -- as the man in her life? Does this mean that because I’m her dad I can barge in on her in the bathroom? No. Can I barge in on her in her room? No. I knock. If she says, ‘Not right now,’ okay, I’ll come back.”
Respecting teens’ privacy will lead them to have a greater respect and trust of their parents. And it increases the likelihood that they will turn to mom or dad when troubles arise.
“Here’s the deal. The more I go through their stuff, the better they become at hiding. That’s all I’m telling them to do is become better hiders,” Runkel says. “What I want to do is to build a relationship where I’m the first person they would come and talk to about those issues.”
Parenting will always be filled with challenges, and parents will often feel anxious as their teens begin to want more freedom. But the whole point of parenting, Runkel says, is to get your children to that point where they are ready to live on their own.
“That’s our job,” Hal says, “and it’s our job to manage our anxiety about that whole process. And if we do that, then it’s amazing the type of relationship we create with them. We’ll be amazed at how we can still be influential even as they leave us because they respect us. That’s the point of Screamfree Parenting.”
Want more parenting advice from Hal Runkel?
Purchase ScreamFree Parenting: Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool.
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