“I never imagined that I would have a child who talks back to me and thinks she’s the boss of everyone. How did that happen, and what am I supposed to do now?”
So asks Brice, a psychologist and parent of a 7-year-old child, in Rona Renner’s Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool.
Renner, a nurse, understands the blows to self-esteem and the guilt that parents take at the hands of their oppositional, all-knowing children. She validates the feelings of parents who have “lost their cool” trying to raise a kid. And she does a good job of making her stories humorous and personal, citing her own experiences as examples. But while Renner might help parents evaluate triggers that cause them to overreact and behaviors that they know are not quite working at home, the book is a bit too watered down.
In her introduction, aptly titled “You’re Not Alone,” Renner shares a light bulb moment — one that she says forever changed her understanding of parenting. She recalls hearing one of her children yelling at the other, and responding at the top of her lungs for them to stop. “I suddenly heard myself: is that me yelling?” she writes. “I was appalled. I was a nurse, a parenting expert; I knew better. That day, I promised myself that I would try to stop doing things that I didn’t want my kids to do, starting with yelling.”
One of the great things Renner does is authentically relate to parents and encourage them to delve deep inside to evaluate what actions are or aren’t working. She shows the importance of acknowledging our errors and making appropriate changes.
And these errors, she writes, do not erupt at random. External triggers, she explains, come from something outside of you, such as when your child whines and begins to demand things from you. Those, along with escalating feelings, which are internal emotions such as anxiety, disappointment, or annoyance, as well as escalating thoughts about a situation, lend fuel to the fire. When these converge, Renner writes, you are most likely to respond unconsciously and incorrectly. You are likely to scream even though screaming may hurt your kids.
It is useful that Renner tries to get at the real reasons behind our reactions, and to help us recognize triggers and ways to de-escalate. And it’s helpful to see real examples illustrating problems, as well as solutions that are billed as CBT-based.
However, many of the chapters seem too simple, both in terms of the information and in terms of the reading level. If you want a book that challenges your thinking and common knowledge on the topic, this isn’t it. What Renner presents is more along the lines of what can be found online or in a parenting magazine. It is not very hard-hitting.
Renner also omits resources that many readers would find useful. As she discusses in chapter three, some parents may realize that they are becoming abusive. Or, they may realize that they are emotionally or psychologically losing control. These are serious issues. And yet, the book lacks the usual appendix with parenting support groups, hotlines, or other agencies that can offer immediate remediation.
A good self-help book should guide readers to other sources that they may need. Unfortunately, though Renner is funny and relatable, she has left too much out.
Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool
New Harbinger Publications, May 2014
Paperback, 224 pages