Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Regaining Composure: ScreamFree Parenting (book & giveaway)

A couple weeks ago Broadway Books sent me an advance copy of ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool for review. I hesitated to accept the book as parenting books have bothered me since they started appearing in my childhood home around the time of my own adolescence. My brother and I nicknamed one of the more ghastly tomes "Karate for Parents."

Backstory: I grew up in a household with volatile tempers and lots of screaming (WAAAY more than average). My parents would shout over everything from minor inconveniences like misplaced items to serious disagreements and infractions so my brother and I followed suit. The parenting books always made things more tempestuous around the house. As a result, I really came to detest the whole self-help genre, especially parenting books.

Years later, I lucked out and got the most amazing job as a university advisor. In those years, I found great mellow parenting role-models in my amazing colleagues. Daily, I saw the end product of 18 to 22 years of different parenting techniques. From observing my students, I learned which parenting styles brought out the best or worst in young people. It finally dawned on me that my own quick temper was self-indulgent and counter-productive. Jim (household Zen master) had known this for years, but was nice enough to wait for an epiphany on my part. In my head, I started writing new guidelines for how I think families should operate.

There were a few things from that mental list in the promotional email for ScreamFree Parenting that made me pause and reconsider my immediate impulse to delete the message. The book seemed like it might address some critical parenting issues that most books overlook. So, I accepted a review copy with the caveat that I might never write about the book. But I liked it and found it worth discussing.

ScreamFree Parenting, written by Hal Edward Runkel (a family therapist from the Atlanta area), is a parenting book that focuses more on the parent's reactions than on the child or individual behavior problems. It talks about familiar parenting issues like boundaries with fresh vision. I hate to excerpt or condense the book's ideas because my retelling will sound cliche at best.

The book is not very long (which Jim and I consider a strength for this type of book). It starts off primarily as parenting philosophy (and I found myself thinking "So, the kids just get to do whatever they want?") but it gets into very effective parenting strategies (some of which I frequently used while working with college students) in the last third of the book.

When it gets to actual kid behavior scenarios, consequences play a major role (but in ways that are fresh). This makes the book slightly less useful for parents of young toddlers (too young to fully understand consequences), BUT the parenting attitude philosophies can help ALL parents regardless of their child's age. [ I'm actually considering giving my copy of the book to my own father when Jim's done reading it.]

The book made me critically examine who I want to be as a parent and a person in helpful new ways. The author's approach is centrist and not tied to other ideologies (religion, etc. like so many other parenting books). It's approachable without resorting to buddy parenting, structured without rigidity, and peaceful for practitioners. The recommended techniques can help us foster greater independence, confidence, happiness, perspective, and integrity in ourselves (and resultantly our children).

ScreamFree Parenting was released today in hardback and audiobook (there's also a 2005 paperback version which I have not read). Consider giving it a read or listen now even if you only have a newborn, it's good food for thought before you're in a conflict situation.

So, do you want to read ScreamFree Parenting? Broadway Books (a division of Random House, Inc.) is giving away FIVE hardback copies to Baby Toolkit readers. Just email babytoolkitcontests[at]gmail[dot]com to enter. We'll give away one a copy a week each Tuesday for the next 5 weeks! (You only need to enter once for all 5 random drawings.)

For more information on the book's actual contents, please visit ScreamFree Living.

As always, this review is the independent opinion of Baby Toolkit (babytoolkit.blogspot.com). We have received an advance copy of ScreamFree Parenting and 5 giveaway copies of the book from Broadway Books. We have received no other compensation from and have no other relationship with Broadway Books, Random House, Inc., or ScreamFree Living, Inc. or their affiliates.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha, Adrienne!

Just getting past another evening when I did far more screaming with my children than is reasonable. How do I begin to patiently walk into the room where other person is that I want to speak with???

I thought I'd impose a new policy: if a child screams to me from another room to communicate non-emergency info or questions, then I would immediately institute a time-out.

But we are too far along this road to even begin to punish the kiddos for using too much volume, when I am doing it myself. Perhaps I need to assign myself a defined consequence (no TV after the kids go to bed? throw away a piece of hidden chocolate that I was hoarding for myself?). Well, I am not too worried about it tonight, but I AM interested in this book. So I'm signing up and will plan to read it even if I don't get my own copy!

Michael Phillips said...

but it gets into very effective parenting strategies (some of which I frequently used while working with college students) in the last third of the book.

You know, it is always just a little bit odd reading about when you were working at the University. Like seeing my name in print, only not exactly.