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When parents react to their children's bad behavior by yelling and screaming, they give up their role as adults in the relationship.

"We've lost it with our kids. The 'it' is our adulthood," said Hal Runkel, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "In the very heat of the moment, we lose what differentiates us from our kids and then we wonder why they don't respect us."

Runkel, author of "ScreamFree Parenting: A Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids By Keeping Your Cool," shared his philosophy on how to develop new parenting skills by remaining calm under pressure to a group of more than 30 parents at the Meuse Forest Neighborhood Center on Aug. 22.

The lecture was part of an initiative funded by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command through its Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs at Army installations throughout the country.

"It's a great way to get the word out about alternative ways of parenting," said Rikki Ford, Parent Support Program coordinator at Army Community Service. "Parenting is difficult. ... This is a different approach [of how to] be a leader for your family and not be emotionally reactive."

In addition to the parenting seminar, Runkel also conducted a two-day ScreamFree Leaders Training on Aug. 20 and 21 for garrison professionals who work with families. All the programs were sponsored by the Family Advocacy Program at ACS.

"I thought it was amazing," said Nicole Bartuss, mother of Jonathan, 3, and Natalie, 2. "I learned a lot from it."

The Normandy Bluffs resident attended the parenting seminar with her husband, Spc. Jason Bartuss, 741st Military Intelligence Battalion.

"We wanted to learn to not scream at our kids," she said. "They definitely push our buttons. We wanted to learn how to react better than we have been."

Runkel said part of the problem for many parents is that when they try to make their children behave, they become reactive. Instead, he said, parents should strive to become calm and stay focused on their own behavior and response.

"When I make the commitment to be calm, I take away any enticement for them [children] to behave badly," Runkel said. "Getting reactive creates the outcome we want to avoid."

Runkel said by remaining calm, setting boundaries for children and letting them know the consequences for negative behavior, parents earn their children's respect.

"We give a lot of our respect and power to people who keep their cool in tense situations," he said.

Runkel gave the example of how Soldiers learn that in the midst of battle, it is their ability to stay calm that determines their ability to lead.

"The real question is, how am I going to react?" Runkel said.

After the program, Spc. Jason Bartuss said the seminar "provided a fresh take on things."

"It opened my eyes," he said. "I can control what I do as a parent. I can take control of the situation, rather than letting the situation take control of me."

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