Parenting: Parenting is About Parents, Not Kids

Much of what I write about today, and in the following blogs, comes from the work of Hal Runkel, PhD, author of ScreamFree Parenting. I have had the great pleasure to spend a weekend training with Hal and his team in Atlanta, transforming not only how I view parenting and all other interpersonal relationships, but also the relationships that I have with my two children, now both teenagers. This is a day-to-day, moment-to-moment task… just as I am able to expel a sigh of parental relief, something else pops up on the parenting horizon, and it is once again time for me to put on my parenting hat and get down to business. This is not only my experience, but that of millions of parents everywhere… but I digress. This first installment on parenting has everything to do with us as parents, and little to do with our children. It is called “parenting” for a reason… if it were about our children, it would be called “kidding”… so off we go!

What is meant by “parenting is about parents”? It is the idea that we as parents have one-hundred percent control over what we do… yes, we are responsible for our own behavior, for the actions that we take, and for how we interact with our children. I am responsible for me, and you are responsible for you, therefore it is best that each of us concentrate on what we can control… ourselves. No matter how much we think that we can control others, and specifically our children, the further away we become from parenting with calm and integrity. The more we are able to stay connected to what is happening for us, the more integrity we can have in handling difficult situations. Our children cannot “make” us anything… angry, sad, happy… we get to own each of these. So let us refrain from pretending that we have no control over our actions and decisions we make; it is simply not true.

How to do this? Using the analogy of a remote control, we would do well to create our very own personal remote control. By pushing the “pause” button when feeling angry or overwhelmed, we may simply pause, or take an adult “time out” to focus on ourselves. When we do this, we are better able to quell our anxiety and parent from a calm and connected place… a place of integrity. As Hal says, “The biggest enemy as a parent is our own emotional reactivity.”

Aside from the most recognizable way of “losing our cool”, emotional reactivity may arise in other forms: actual screaming, hovering or helicoptering over our children, or all-out cutting off from them, generally referred to as “the silent treatment”. All of these entail our own emotionality, and have nothing to do with our children because we are responsible for our behavior. So press the pause button and get to the business of calming down prior to attempting any other parenting. By remaining calm, we are then able to connect with our children.

As Robert Fulghum once said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”  So take a pause and calm down… you’ll be rewarded by a more connected relationship with your child.