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Care and respect keys to parenting

Coloroso to share insights into raising ethical kids

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If parents want their kids to be good citizens they have to help them learn to think for themselves and care deeply for those around them.

That’s just part of the message internationally recognized parenting expert Barbara Coloroso will share at a lecture at Whistler Secondary School April 20 at 7 p.m.

"(We have) to use the stuff of everyday life, no matter what the age of the child, to help them care deeply, that means using compassion and loving kindness to everyone they meet, to share generously and to help willingly," said Coloroso from her home-base in Colorado.

The lecture, arranged and paid for by the Howe Sound District Parent Advisory Council and its member groups, will focus on bullying, ethics and parenting strategies.

Coloroso, an acclaimed author and speaker, believes that if children are raised ethically and taught to stand up against injustice bullying will diminish.

"We have to teach kids to care deeply, to share generously and help willingly," she said.

"They are the antidotes to the three most virulent agents that rip apart the fabric of our humanity today, and that is hating other human beings, hoarding – me, mine and more – and harming other people with lying and cheating and stealing and shunning."

Coloroso believes conflict is a natural, normal and necessary part of childhood.

She does not believe that conflict is the same thing as bullying.

"Bullying isn’t about a conflict," said Coloroso, who covers the issue in her newest book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.

"Bullying is contempt for another human being."

You have to be taught that, said Coloroso.

"You have to be taught that someone is less than you," she said. "You have to be taught that you can exclude other human beings and you have to be taught that you don’t have to be tolerant or deeply caring about other human beings. That is a learned behaviour and it often runs in the family.

"I define it as a conscious, willful, deliberate hostile activity that is intended to harm. (Those who bully) often get pleasure from somebody else’s pain, which is not true in a conflict."

It can be verbal, physical, and/or relational. Verbal bullying is the most common, including cell phone and cyber bullying.

To raise kids who won’t bully and who won’t stand by and watch others be bullied parents have to care deeply about their children and they have to help their kids to feel the same way about others as they grow up.

Children naturally care about those around them but the emotion can be slowly dampened by observed and/or imposed behaviours adopted from their family, peers and environment.

"Watch an 18-month old when they hear a baby in distress," said Coloroso a mother of three grown children. "They are going to go over with their own blanket and try to soothe the baby.

"You ask a four-year-old to help and they can not only comfort somebody they can do it appropriately."

That action of doing the right thing must be embraced because kids who feel right will behave correctly.

Coloroso points to a recent example at the Winter Olympics in Italy in February. During the Games a Norwegian cross-country ski coach, Bjoernar Haakensmoen, handed Canadian competitor Sara Renner a spare ski pole after she broke one during the Nordic ski sprint relay final. Renner went on to win a silver medal while the Norwegians finished fourth.

"I would love him to be the coach of my kids because he walks the walk and talks the talk," said Coloroso.

"He didn’t think about it he just did the right thing."

Haakensmoen was hounded by the press, who pointed out that his action might have cost his own team a medal. The coach was totally perplexed by the global attention saying: "It was natural for me to do it and I think anyone should have done it."

Part of behaving ethically is teaching kids that they are part of a community and behaving ethically is the norm, not something that should be rewarded.

Coloroso is concerned about the focus by groups and schools who use a reward system to encourage good behaviour, like stickers for reading, presents for good report cards and so on.

"We need to be alarmed," said Coloroso, who encourages parents to stop the behaviour cold turkey.

To put it in perspective she offered this example: "Let’s take it to the extreme then. If I buy you flowers and I take you out to a nice dinner then you owe me sex. Everything is a deal, and if a young girl is raised to believe that if (a guy) is nice to me I owe him something rather then let’s be in a relationship, you can see the problem.

"We have now swamped our children with the idea that everything is a deal and it is really impacting our young people today.

"It’s the idea that if I do something good I deserve a reward, that all good deeds are rewarded, and if it is not rewarded it is not worth doing. That is not acting as an ethical human being."

Coloroso admits that it’s not easy for parents, but it is simple. Rewards should be replaced with encouragement, feedback, unconditional love and discipline.

The Whistler talk is free but donations will be graciously taken at the door. Some bussing is available. Contact your local Parent Advisory Council to find out more.

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