Bullying expert to host two free forums for Chicago area parents

There’s no denying bullying has been a hot topic lately, and Chicago-area parents will have the opportunity to take a closer look at the issue – and how to protect their kids from it.

On Feb. 22, the Deerfield Parents Network will host best-selling author Barbara Coloroso for two sessions on bullying and parenting issues. “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” will be presented at 1 p.m. at the Highland Park High School auditorium and “Parenting with Wit and Wisdom” at Deerfield High School’s auditorium at 7 p.m.Both programs are free and open to the community.

Coloroso has appeared on Oprah, CNN and NPR and is the author ofParenting Through Crisis-Helping Kids in Times of Loss, Grief and Change and The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander-From Pre-School to High School.

“We’re more aware of [bullying] because of the media,” Coloroso says. “We’re also more sensitive about it because in my day, hazing was just tolerated. [Now] there are more ways and means to be even meaner. A target used to be able to go home and have safety and times away from it.”

During the bullying session, Coloroso will address what to do if your child is the target of bullying or the bully himself. She also will emphasize that there are “no innocent bystanders” when it comes to bullying, just those implicated in the bullying and those who stand up against it.

The evening session will focus on how to raise children who will stand up to injustice and be responsible, respectful and compassionate people. Topics include what Coloroso calls “the basics,” everything from potty training to allowance – even getting your child out of jail.

As for bullying, Coloroso uses examples from the news, research and her own experience to explore the topic. And she says that just because a child has been a bully in the past doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a lifetime of bullying.

“Bullies are phenomenal leaders; they make lousy friends,” Coloroso says. “These are only roles kids are playing, but if they play it so often, they begin to behave that way. Give them opportunities to do good.”

She also emphasizes that there’s a difference between bullying and natural conflict, and parents should be able to discern between the two.

“Our job as wise and caring parents it to teach kids to handle conflicts non-violently,” she says. “Bullying is not normal, natural or necessary. I want your daughter to say ‘that’s mean’ and have the courage to sit next to the new girl; I want your son to be the one who says ‘no.'”

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