SILVER CREEK – Often bullying presentations are geared toward students or educators, but the presentation at Silver Creek School Wednesday was directed toward parents.
Barbara Coloroso is a bestselling author, speaker and consultant on the topics of parenting, teaching, school discipline, positive school climate, bullying, grieving, nonviolent conflict resolution and restorative justice. She has appeared on national television programs and been featured in national publications.
In her speech to parents, she drew heavily from her experience as a teacher and mother to show her points.
She began by saying she learned early in her teaching career that you cannot make children do what they don’t want to do, giving an example of a boy, Jeffy, who refused to sit in her class no matter what she did.
She said all parents can do is invite children to make good choices, inform them of the consequences and then let them make their own decision and learn from the consequences.
She explained children need to be taught how to think, not what to think. She said this applies to bullying because if children are only given what to think from their parents, once they become teenagers, they may not ask questions when their peers turn to bullying.
Coloroso also said praise driven children may also fall into the trap of going along with bullying when they are older.
She said strong-willed children may give their parents a hard time, but once they become teenagers, those children are the ones who question situations of bullying.
She explained teaching children how to think can be accomplished with age-appropriate decisions, giving the example of what to wear to bed for a five year old, but not when to go to bed.
She said parents should strive to raise children brave enough to stand up to bullies and not participate or stand on the sidelines.
“When the high status girl who says to all the other girls, ‘I don’t like the new girl. If you want to be in my group, don’t eat lunch with her.’ I want your daughter to be that brave one, to be the one who says, ‘That’s mean.’ And have the courage to go sit next to the new girl,” she said.
She said another way to raise children who don’t stand for bullying and intolerance is for parents to “talk the talk and walk the walk” in everyday situations. She gave the example of standing up to bigoted relatives and in general treating people of different cultures the way you would like your child to behave.
She also explained the differences between taunting and teasing. She explained teasing is allows those involved to swap roles, isn’t intended to hurt the other person and is stopped when someone becomes upset. Taunting on the other hand is based on an imbalance of power, is meant to diminish the self worth of the target and continues when the target becomes distressed.
She said bullying dehumanizes a target and puts a target “outside the bully’s circle of caring.”
She said if a child is bullied parents should not minimize or rationalize a bully’s behavior, don’t rush to solve the problem for the child, don’t tell them to avoid or fight back against the bully and not to confront the bully or the bully’s parent’s alone.
She suggested expressing the child is not alone, it is not their fault and reporting the bullying to school personnel.
Coloroso will be presenting to teachers and staff today, focusing on breaking the cycle of bullying and educating children to be more “human.”
“The school district is committed to this and everyone needs to be committed,” she said.