SAN ANTONIO -- What do effective leaders and effective parents have in common? Both tend to remain calm under pressure.

So says Hal Runkel, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Runkel, with colleagues from The ScreamFree Institute, led a two-day training seminar Aug. 1-2 at Fort Sam Houston to coach 20 Army professionals toward the "ScreamFree Approach." The technique encourages parents to focus inwardly and remain calm.

The U.S. Army Installation Management Command, through its Family and MWR Programs, is working with ScreamFree to help Families learn new parenting skills. The team has visited more than 20 installations so far.

"The idea is to create a movement of like-minded people to form a community to where we're thinking differently about parenting," said Runkel. "It's not just military Families coping with all the struggles they have. No. It's beginning to think differently about how 'Family' is done."

"We are honored to be a cog in the wheel of the Army's incredible effort to strengthen Families," said Runkel. The train-the-trainer approach, he said, is one step to begin that process. In doing so, the community becomes stronger while the lessons are shared.

Participants in the class are involved in various aspects of Family Programs including Army Community Service, New Parent Support Program and the chaplaincy.

Lisa Schott and Vina Stroud, both training curriculum specialists at the Fort Sam Houston Child Development Center, participated in the training.

"We thought it was going to be more on the professional level, but it's something that we are going to be able to use personally and at work," said Schott, adding that she's already begun incorporating some techniques into her Family life.

Following the two-day seminar, participants were also able to watch sessions in which Runkel met with parents. The opportunity served to reinforce how they can coach Families in their communities.

Throughout IMCOM, organizers hope the program will lead to lasting changes in Families and couples, as well as the organizations that care for them.

"This service is part of the Army Family Advocacy Program," said Rich Lopez, New Parent Support Program manager for IMCOM. "Our mission is the prevention of spouse and child abuse and neglect. Prevention is tough because you have to get out in front of it before it happens."

The foundation is already there, said Runkel, as long as a Soldier can recognize it.

"We see parenting as leadership," said Runkel. "It's the most important leadership role on the planet … We are helping parents begin to see themselves as leaders and then we're helping them see that we all respect leaders the most who are able to keep their cool in tense situations."

"Nobody has taught me the power of calm in a tense situation like listening to Soldiers," said Runkel. "That same leadership stuff that you've been taught that's going to help you succeed in the battlefield is the exact same thing that your Family needs."

Already, through their partnership with IMCOM, the group has made 26 presentations at various installations this fiscal year toward a total of 30 visits. Lopez and Runkel are hopeful that the partnership will continue in the future.

According to Jim Solomon, a member of the ScreamFree team, feedback continues to be positive.

"Our evaluations show that 96 percent of people who attend the classes would endorse and recommend it for their colleagues," said Solomon.

"I'm really anxious to get out and share it with other people," said Stroud. "I do think it's a different way of doing things."

Page last updated Wed August 8th, 2012 at 14:29