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Modeling kindness and empathy

March 9, 2010

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Barbara Coloroso, author of several books on parenting, bullying, and conflict resolution, says parents must model behavior to create kind, empathetic children.

“How do you deal with a bigoted relative at a family gathering?’’ she asks. “How do you treat hired help? How do you treat someone who looks different from you? How do you treat someone who moves too slowly in the grocery store for you?’’

When parents are driving and overhear nasty remarks about another child, it’s time to stop the car and point out the cruel behavior, she says.

“The girl who goes over to sit next to the new girl, the boy who says, ‘Leave him alone’ - that’s the kind of kid I want to raise,’’ Coloroso says. “Parents need to help their kids see that everyone has dignity and worth, that they don’t put someone outside a circle of caring, they don’t make someone an ‘it.’ You don’t have to like every kid in the classroom, but you do have to honor their humanity.’’

In her book “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander,’’ Coloroso lists seven steps to stop bullying:

■ Discipline (including the three Rs: restitution, resolution, reconciliation)

■ Create opportunities to “do good.’’

■ Nurture empathy.

■ Teach friendship skills.

■ Closely monitor TV viewing, video games, and computer activities.

■ Engage in constructive, entertaining, energizing activities.

■ Teach ways to “will good.’’

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