Becoming the "Cool" Parent

Nov 01, 1999
Becoming the "Cool" Parent
You may have seen “The Far Side” cartoon entitled, “Nerds in Hell.” It depicts a long line of eternally damned souls waiting for, well, eternity. There we find a plaid shirt-wearing, broken-glasses-donning nerd elbowing the next hellion in line, trying to make small talk. He snorts, “Hot enough for ya?”

Well, at the risk of revealing my true nerdiness, it really is hot out there. The entire country is enveloped in a ridiculously scorching heat wave. Unless you're one of the fortunate to live on the California coast, then you know what I'm talking about. And unfortunately, many of us are also experiencing some friction and heat inside our homes as well. Are you struggling to keep your "cool" even indoors? Well, it’s precisely when things get hot, whether outside in the sun or inside in our families, that we most need to keep our cool. And that's what ScreamFree is all about: becoming the cool parents your kids want, and need, more than anything else.

Whenever I tell people initially about the phrase “cool parent,” I see a lot raised eyebrows, and more than a few turned-up noses. This is usually because our minds initially conjure up images of “cool” parents not acting their age. Here are a few examples, which are definitely NOT what we mean by “cool”:

  • An alarming number of parents are, in an effort to be “cool” in their kids’ eyes, hosting alcohol parties. These are so-called safe alternatives to having kids out there drinking on their own. Parents agrue that at least someone is supervising the activity. Thankfully, 35 states have passed laws outlawing such hosted parties, and 15 states go further, indicting parents for not stopping underage drinking in their home.
  • A Colorado woman just pled guilty yesterday to hosting teenage sex parties. She stated she just wanted to be a “cool mom”. Her lawyer said she had always wanted to be popular when she was a teenager, and she got caught up in the idea of being the popular mom to so many teenaged boys.

With these images in mind, it makes perfect sense for anyone to become alarmed at our encouragement to become “The Cool Parent Your Kids Really Need.”

Be assured, at ScreamFree, we take a much different approach.

We believe A “Cool” Parent is…

  • the mom who calmly informs her kids that all the stray items she’s collected at the end of the day and placed on the steps are theirs, and if they want to keep such items from going to Goodwill, they will pick 'em up before bedtime; and then
  • without making any big announcements or guilt trips, makes that trip to Goodwill the next day.

A “Cool” Parent is…

  • the dad who stays true to his promise and invites his son to practice driving on Saturday, and then
  • resists every temptation to throw in the towel when his son accidentally bumps the tree while backing out of the driveway.

A “Cool” Parent is…

  • the mom who works on knowing when she's approaching her wit's end, and then
  • has the courage to do whatever's necessary to give herself the space she needs to calm down and treat herself well.

A “Cool” Parent is…

  • the dad who decides to take a very active role in nurturing his new baby; and then
  • continues that active role even when the baby throws up on his shirt and poops on his hands while he's changing the diaper. This cool dad keeps plucking away even when his mom and mother-in-law complain that he's just getting in the way.

Basically, a “cool” parent is one who takes his or her own demeanor and behavior more seriously than their child's. A “cool” parent is that mom or dad who realizes that no matter what the situational stress and disaster potential of the moment may be, remaining calm and connected offers the greatest potential for creating a positive outcome. And finally, unlike those drinking or sex-party parents, a truly cool parent fulfills his own emotional desires for acceptance through healthy adult relationships instead of wrongly relying on his kids for that need. He fully realizes that being cool is not about being liked or being popular; rather, it is about being grown up.

Hal E. Runkel, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the groundbreaking book ScreamFree Parenting: Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, from Waterbrook Press. Visit for more information.  



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