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March 10, 2015

Testimonial Tuesday: Breakthroughs with Pizza

Image: Flickr/Ivan Dervisevic

Image: Flickr/Ivan Dervisevic

From time to time we receive emails from folks just like you who are discovering just how revolutionary our content can be. We love hearing this — not just because it validates our materials but because it means lives are being changed. Our whole idea is to help people stay cool enough to handle any moment in the moment. We know that if they can do that, they can find the momentum they need to create great relationships. Great relationships, change lives, which transform communities, which, in turn, heal the world. So, we want to share with you some of the stories we get to hear — stories of life change, stories of transformation. Here is a story from a mom who practiced her first screamfree moment involving a veggie pizza and a cheese-only loving daughter.


Before I had children, I spoke in soft, lilting tones, rarely raising my voice above a lady-like whisper. The moment my children arrived on the scene, however, I witnessed how my vocal chords were suddenly in top form. It was alarming, really. Where did I gain my two-octave ability? By yelling at my kids. I swallowed hard. Yell? Scream? Pitch a fit? I’d done it like the best of them. It is not comfortable to admit this to you, nor is it an unnatural tendency to want to be louder than they are. But, I realized I was not often modeling my best behavior. Nor was I truly getting what I wanted: self-directed children who are motivated by their own moral principles. I was getting deer-in-the-headlights glances and scurrying feet who did my will, but not for long. Hal Edward Runkel, a family therapist from Atlanta, Georgia, provides a fabulous insight into how we can literally live scream free. He doesn’t suggest we change our personalities. He does recommend morphing our anxious reactivity into more empowering means of communicating with our loved ones. Hal’s approach is so down-to-earth that you’ll find yourself slapping your own head with a “Why didn’t I think of that?”The book rests on three basic principles. Parenting is about the parent not the kids. Calm down. Grow up. While these may seem over simplistic, the premise is quite revolutionary. We’ve got Generation Y running about the office, expecting a large congratulations for actually showing up on time to work. Our kid-centric model of parenting has failed miserably. Humans raising other humans is challenging at best. If you don’t care for your own reactions (the only ones you can control), how can you care for anyone else? Another heartening suggestion – stop trying to control something you cannot. The only thing you can control is your reaction to things. Anxious reactivity informs a lot of our parenting. Give it up. Your children are not responsible for making you happy, but for finding their way in the world. They can’t do that if they have to worry about you going ballistic too. Hal’s hardest pill to swallow might be that we are the ones standing in the way of a powerful relationship with our kids. I’m guilty of it. You might be, too. Halfway through the book, I decided to test out his theory. It’s one thing to grin, nod and giggle from the com for of your own post-kid-bedtime bed. It’s an entirely other thing to actually put it to use. I ordered a family-size vegetarian pizza for everyone. My daughter loves cheese pizza, but enjoys a dubious relationship to anything green. When it arrived, she wagged her tongue about like a canine happy to see his master. We opened the box, and her face fell like a soufflé at a children’s birthday party. “It’s not cheese.” I suggested she pick off what she doesn’t like, which she did, leaving her with a bare pizza. She cried, kicked the table, and had a juicy tantrum, while I kept eating my pizza. I continued eating while she spewed out things such as, “You’re a terrible mother! You don’t care if I starve!” And other thespian lines. I waited until she had finished, then quietly suggested we put parmesan cheese on it and place it back into the oven to melt. Then a miracle happened. She actually stopped crying. “Okay,” I heard her say. Containing my jaw in its socket, I did just that. She later scraped off the cheese, but ate the entire thing without complaint. My quiet, single octave voice created a calm she had not expected. I tried it again with my son, who often vies to be heard by speaking louder and louder. I got quieter and quieter, asking him politely to tell me what he needed in a way I could hear him. He then agreed to brush his teeth on his own, discarding any struggle whatsoever. My singing voice might suffer from this new scream free practice, but my relationships certainly will not. Besides, who needs to replace the late Pavarotti? I’ll leave that to the Italians to decide.

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