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The Kids Are Worth It

Parenting expert and best selling author Barbara Coloroso shares her three foundational principles of child-rearing, how to get kids to be accountable for their actions, and what we can do as parents to raise confident, happy children.

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This interview is unlike any we’ve done so far on The Knowledge Project. We’re talking parenting with one of the foremost experts in the field, Barbara Coloroso. Her work was introduced to me by the mother of one of my son’s friends, (possibly as a hint towards my parenting), and once I started reading her books, I knew I had to get her on the show.

Her style is spunky, hard-nosed and compassionate all at the same time. And the qualities that her methods instill in children, mirror those that I want for my own kids — kindness, accountability, curiosity, and self-reliance to name a few. I’ll admit, as a father of two boys, I had selfish motivations to get Barbara one on one, and hopefully get the inside track on how to master this parenting thing.

If you’re a parent, uncle, aunt, or interact with children in any way, you won’t want to miss this captivating interview.

Here are a few highlights from our discussion:

I came up with three basic tenets. One, kids are worth it. I believe they're worth our time, energy and resources to help them become all they can become. Second, I won't treat them in a way I, myself, would not want to be treated. And third, it must leave my dignity and the child's dignity intact.

I felt that bribes and threats, rewards and punishments, which by the way, have become an insidious part of our culture, really interfere with raising an ethical human being. I want a child who will stand up for values and against injustices when it costs them, not when they're getting rewarded for being good because it's all about getting caught.  

Praise-dependent, reward-dependent children make wonderful henchmen for bullies. They will do the bully's bidding because they want whatever reward that bully is dangling in front of them.

If you make a mistake, it's a very simple formula. Simple doesn't make it easy. With a mistake, you own it, you fix it, you learn from it and you move on.

We want assertive lines, not aggressive or passive. Our climate today of adult discourse doesn't help our kids at all, with these virulent attacks and dehumanization of another human being, which is what verbal bullying does. So we need to walk our talk and talk our walk.

Discipline is not something we do to a child. It's something we do with a child. Punishment's adult-oriented. It's imposed from without. It arouses resentment and teaches kids to respond out of fear, or fight back, or flee. Discipline, on the other hand, means to give life to a child's learning.

If it's not life threatening, morally threatening, or unhealthy, let it go. Let them experience the consequences.

I really dislike it when people say, "My teenager's my best friend," I say, "Get a life." They need a mentor. They don't need a friend right now, not you as a friend. Then in adulthood, you can become their friend and you better become a good friend because they do pick out your nursing home.

We have 105 words for penis, and 125 for breasts, and only one for an ankle. We have to start young teaching kids to use their proper words. I want a little boy to say something like, "My penis feels funny," instead of using all these euphemisms, wee wee, sausage and bacon, or twigs and berries and all the different words that we use.

Deep caring is not liking somebody. I tell kids, “You do not have to like every kid in this classroom, but you must honor their humanity.” Deep caring is a must to relieve somebody else's suffering, and wishing them well, which by the way, is the antithesis of mean and cruel.

Listen and Learn

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For comprehensive show notes on this episode, including a full edited transcript, go to https://fs.blog/podcast/

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Updated on July 19
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Key Smash Notes In This Episode

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First, it is important to distinguish between choices and decisions. A child does not get to decide if they want to go to bed or not, but perhaps they have the choice to pick which pajamas they would like to wear. Age appropriate and ability appropriate behaviors and choices are important to keep in mind. Additionally, increasing responsibilities and decision-making as a child grows older helps them advance in independence.

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Own it, fix it, learn from it, and move on.

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Show the child what they have done wrong, give them ownership of the problem, and give them ways to solve it with their dignity intact.

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Utilize 3 "R's" of restorative practice: restitution, resolution, and reconciliation. A child must own and fix what they did, determine how they will keep it from happening again, and find a way to heal with the person that has been harmed.

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Conflict is inevitable, violence is not. A parent's job is to teach kids to handle conflict non-violently. Help kids come up with a peaceful plan to resolve the conflict.

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The target must be safe, a witness must be safe, and then the child doing the mean and cruel activity must be dealt with even if that means delayed justice.

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They should learn to stand strong with a non-passive posture and assertively name the cruel behavior they were the recipient of. They should then remove themselves from the situation.

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Routines are critical. When children are little, it is important to establish these. Always make bedtime a pleasant time.

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A parent should stop everything they are doing and ask the child to talk to them about it and understand what occurred. Teachers can become involved in helping stop the behavior by changing routines or patterns in classroom procedures.

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Remember the 3 "Cs" of feedback: compliments, comments, and constructive criticism.

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Parents should keep in mind that the goal is always to increase responsibility and decision-making and reduce limits and boundaries. Chores may be more dependent on where a child is at developmentally vs. their age.

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Parents should teach kids 3 things. First, be digitally savvy (starting from age 5), be civil, be safe. Through the early teen years, it is important to know usernames, passwords, etc. in order for parents to help their children. Commonsensemedia.org and stopcyberbulling.org are both great resources for parents.

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