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Face of Defense: How to Raise Kids ‘Scream Free’

By Kris Gonzalez
Fort Bragg Public Affairs

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Nov. 30, 2011 – Growing up is hard to do -- especially for grown-ups, according to Hal Runkel, founder of the ScreamFree Institute.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Hal Runkel, author and founder of the ScreamFree Institute, discusses parenting techniques with community members during his ScreamFree Parenting seminar at the Division Memorial Chapel on Fort Bragg, N.C., Nov. 17, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Kris Gonzalez
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

And turning up the volume doesn’t make it any easier, said Runkel, as he spoke to Fort Bragg community members Nov. 16-17, as part of two, 90-minute seminars designed to help military families grow strong.

Runkel is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the book, “ScreamFree Parenting.” He said he teaches parenting strategies based on the notion that parenting is not about kids -- it’s about parents.

“If it was about kids, then we’d call it kidding,” he joked.

“What parenting isn’t about is controlling kids,” Runkel continued. “The greatest thing parents can do for their kids is to learn how to control -- themselves.”

Runkel described his answer to the complaint he most-often hears from parents around the world: “My kids don’t listen.”

“They listen,” he said. “They hear every word you say. They just don’t obey you. And you don’t know what to do about that. You think, ‘If they heard me, they would do it, so, I need to speak louder so they can hear me.’”

Yelling doesn’t work, and neither does shutting down, which Runkel said, is another form of screaming, only it’s on the inside, but it causes just as much resentment.

“Our definition of screaming is pretty broad,” he said. “It’s any time you let the anxieties of the moment override your thinking; it’s that knee-jerk reaction.”

Runkel uses humor, first-hand accounts and real-life scenarios to help teach parents how to calm their emotional reactions to their children’s behavior.

“ScreamFree Parenting isn’t just about raising children without raising your voice,” said Vanessa Vazquez, a child advocate trainer with Fort Bragg’s Family Advocacy Program. “It’s a revolutionary approach to parenting that focuses on self-control, relationship building and self-care.”

Vazquez was one of about 20 Fort Bragg professionals and trainers who participated in a separate, two-day, train-the-trainer course taught by Runkel. The purpose of the training, she said, was for post family advocacy professionals and trainers to be able to implement the skills they learned with individuals, couples and groups in counseling or in crisis and to gain the ability to teach monthly ScreamFree parenting workshops to parents here beginning in January.

Each monthly, 10-hour workshop provides a forum for parents to not only learn parenting tips, but also to meet other parents and learn from their experiences, Vazquez said.

Participants who attend the workshops will receive workbooks and a DVD to help implement ScreamFree Parenting techniques at home.

Charles Pennington, a family advocacy program specialist, said he thinks the workshop will offer a great opportunity for new fathers to become more involved with their kids, and to help take the load off of moms.

Runkel said he thinks the workshop will be fantastic for any military leader or potential leader to attend, because it can equip them to better coach and mentor fellow service members as well as to provide some valuable skills about stress and anger control when handling conflicts with others.

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