For 48 years, Barbara Coloroso has written, consulted and spoken professionally on the topics of parenting, teaching, school discipline, positive school climate, bullying, grieving, nonviolent conflict resolution, genocide, and restorative justice.
GREELEY, CO, October 15, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — Not too long ago, TSR News Group was granted an exclusive interview with bestselling author and unparalleled speaker and influencer, Barbara Coloroso. On the heels of a stellar news appearance in February, 2019, which was seen on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX affiliates throughout the country, Ms. Coloroso cheerfully welcomed the idea of an intimate interview. What nobody at TSR News Group predicted, though, was that she would ultimately approach the written interview in the best way she knows how: as a writer delivering a beautiful, flowing narrative. In a break from our traditional question-and-answer presentation, this riveting interview is being presented exactly as its subject intended; in her exact, written words. Therefore, the remainder of this news article is presented from the singular pen and point-of-view of the talented, inimitable Barbara Coloroso:
My parenting has come full circle. My children are raising their own children. My lectures have come full circle as well. While on the road today, I meet or hear from parents who received a well-worn copy of the first edition of my first book, kids are worth it! from their parents, aunts, uncles, friends or in some cases, grandparents. These young parents’ concerns were our concerns a generation ago—slightly different wrapping but the same substance. How can we raise children who are resilient, responsible and compassionate? How can we avoid raising kids who are praise and reward dependent? How can we help them learn to care deeply, share generously and help willingly? How can we keep them from swimming in a culture of meanness when our larger social climate is one of meanness and vitriol? How can we teach our young people to stand up for themselves, exercising their own rights while respecting the rights and legitimate needs of others; to stand up for others and against injustices, to do the right thing when it is difficult to do?
My writing on parenting and teaching has come full circle as well. I began with what I knew to be the basics of good parenting and moved on as my family did to facing major losses, grief and change in Parenting Through Crisis. As educators and parents began to recognize that the cruel behavior known as bullying was something totally different from the normal and necessary conflicts of childhood, I wrote The Bully, The Bullied, and The Not-So-Innocent Bystander. In it I described those children who refused to play one of these three roles, instead choosing to be a fourth character in this tragedy: the brave hearted witnesses, resisters, and defenders, standing up for their targeted peers and against the cruelty. Just Because It’s Not Wrong Doesn’t Make It Right followed as a bookend to kids are worth it! It is about using the stuff of everyday life in our homes and schools to nurture and guide children’s ethical lives from toddlerhood through the teen years.
Between writing the book on bullying and the book on ethics, I began to work in Rwanda with orphans from the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi. Although I had been studying genocide for thirty years, it was during my work in Rwanda that I began to understand that it is a short walk from hateful rhetoric to hate crimes to crimes against humanity. I wrote about this short walk in Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide…and Why it Matters. The key conditions for a genocide: unquestioning obedience to authority, routinization of cruelty, and the dehumanization of a group of people didn’t just pop up in the killing fields. They had been nurtured in a society for years and sometimes for generations. We must ask ourselves the serious question—are we nurturing these key conditions or the antidotes to these in our own society.
I fear that in our own country today we are no longer on a short walk; we appear to be on a bullet train, with hateful and dehumanizing rhetoric coloring the discourse from our top politicians on down to our school yard verbal and physical attacks, a rise in hate crimes in our large cities and small towns, and the rhetoric of the dehumanization of refugees at our borders. And yet, I am hopeful as I watch young and old band together to stand up for our common values, speak out against injustice, and stand with those who have been targeted.
Since our story about our human nature in today’s social and cultural climate is part and parcel of our human nature and our social and cultural climate, part of raising such ethical human beings involves looking for ways of being in the world that will reduce the harm we do to one another and to our planet. At the same time, it involves creating homes, schools, and communities that support us in raising such deeply caring children.
My road to parenting was anything but a direct route. In the late 1960s, at the age of seventeen, I entered a Franciscan convent to become a nun, and began my freshman year at university to become a special education teacher. Little did I know then that the path to these two goals would radically influence my parenting skills—and now my grandparenting skills—years later. The special education courses I took during my first year were based on a behaviorist model, full of rewards and punishments, charts, stickers, stars, stickers, stars, threats and bribes. The model worked with rats; surely it would work with children. Something didn’t seem right about manipulating rats and children with rewards and punishments, threats and bribes, but I couldn’t put into words the discomfort I was feeling, and besides, I didn’t know what to use in their place. My recent studies have not only reinforced my discomfort, but affirmed it.
The following year, entering the canonical novitiate, also known as a year of silence and reflection, I immersed myself in the study of philosophy and theology. It was during this time that I began to challenge what I had learned in my education courses. I carried on long, futile arguments in my head. When I began my teaching career I tried to reconcile the teaching methods with my philosophical tenets, but that didn’t work either. Believing children are worth it simply because they are, not because they produced or behaved in a way I wanted them to, didn’t match with rewarding “appropriate behavior” and ignoring or punishing “inappropriate behavior.” Not treating them in a way I myself would not want to be treated conflicted with “making them mind for their own good.” And using techniques that left their dignity and my dignity intact didn’t connect with withholding food from rats or children. What did all of this have to do the real meaning of discipline, giving life to a child’s learning? Could children become resilient, responsible and resourceful if they were controlled, manipulated, and made to mind? Could they develop a sense of inner discipline if all of the control came from the outside? Could they grow into compassionate human beings who cared deeply, shared generously and helped willingly if they themselves were bribed, threatened and punished for their mistakes and mischief?
The answer is more an approach to parenting and teaching than a collection of techniques. Believing children are worth it, not treating them in a way I would not want to be treated, and behaving in a way that leaves our and our children’s dignity intact are not themselves specific tools; rather, they provide an attitude and an environment that is conducive to raising children who know how to think, not just what to think, who take responsibility for their own actions, and who are willing to stand up for others and against injustices.
With a husband, three grown kids and now three wonderful grandchildren, I am obviously no longer a nun. I am also not a perfect parent or educator. In the midst of the many trials and errors I have had in raising two girls and a boy, and with the students I have taught. I have often told them how lucky they were not to have a perfect parent or educator. My lectures today consist mostly of what I do, have done, would have done, wished I had done, and plan to do next time around with my grandchildren, and the generation of new parents and educators that I continue to work with throughout the world.
ABOUT BARBARA COLOROSO
She is the author of four international bestsellers: kids are worth it! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline; Parenting Through Crisis—Helping Kids in Times of Loss, Grief and Change; Just Because It’s Not Wrong Doesn’t Make It Right—From Toddlers to Teens, Teaching Kids to Think and Act Ethically and her latest book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander—From Pre-school Through High School and Beyond, Breaking the Cycle of Violence and Creating More Deeply Caring Communities. In Barbara’s book, Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide…and Why it Matters, and her Ted X lecture on it, she discusses the premise that it is a short walk from hateful rhetoric to hate crimes to crimes against humanity, and that the walk begins with dehumanizing the “other” through verbal taunts.
To learn more please visit www.kidsareworthit.com
Contact Barbara Coloroso here.
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