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Parenting 101: How to be the best caregiver for your children

April 19, 2019

Barbara Coloroso, a renowned parenting expert and consultant, delivered a riveting lecture on how to parent with wit and wisdom to a rapt audience earlier this month. Her talk was a key highlight of the Ryerson Parent Network's 2019 lecture series.

By Suelan Toye

Looking for help on how to deal with those dreaded morning battles with your child before heading off to work? Or how to help your child navigate bullying issues at school? You are not alone.

The Ryerson Parent Network (opens in new window)  (RPN) provides support for staff and faculty members so they can connect and share in the joys and challenges of parenting. Founded in 2014 by Mariam Hashemi, director of strategy and innovation of the RPN and program administrator in the Department of Politics, the network has grown from 25 members in its first year to over 225 members across campus, with representation from many employee groups.

“When I came back to work from maternity leave, I wondered how others were juggling the demands of parenting with a full-time job. And once I started asking, I realized that no one had really figured it out. There were so many of us, all learning how to parent within the context of a rapidly changing landscape,” said Hashemi.

Supported by the President’s Office, the Office of Equity, Community and Inclusion, and the Office of Vice President Administration, the network has organized over 50 events over the past five years. RPN has featured speakers both from within the Ryerson community such as President Mohamed Lachemi speaking on parenting in a diverse city, to community members discussing relevant topics such as the power of play and its benefits for children.

Barbara Coloroso was one of the featured speakers of the Ryerson Parent Network’s 2019 speaker series. Her talk, sponsored by the Faculty of Arts, drew about 70 faculty and staff from around the university in April to discuss how to parent with wit and wisdom.

An internationally recognized speaker and consultant on parenting, teaching, school discipline, positive school climate, and bullying, Coloroso is a bestselling author of four books including Kids Are Worth It! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline. A sought-after media commentator with nearly five decades of experience, she has appeared on Canadian, U.S. television networks and has been featured in other national and international publications.

Barbara on what it means to be a parent [and human] in the 21st century:

What are the biggest challenges facing parents these days?

One of the biggest challenges is media and its influence on young people. They are already introduced to the smart phone in the labour room as their parents are posting photos of their newborns on Facebook and Instagram or texting pictures to friends and family members. We need to teach our kids to be cyber-civil, cyber-savvy and cyber-safe. Those three things make parenting far more difficult because of [the media’s] influence.

What about kids? What challenges do you find they are dealing with more?

From the kids’ point of view, I can get their [perspective] from my own grandchildren, and that is the pressure to be successful. They are constantly being compared against their peers at school and against their siblings by parents at home. The competition, [combined with other issues such as] disparity in wealth, and having to hide during school shootings, are exposing them to issues that no one in your generation or my generation had to deal with.

How can parents handle power struggles with their kids?

If you are locked in a power struggle, you are going to lose. If [what the child wants to do] is not life threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy, then let it go. You can also give the child other options to choose from so they feel they have a say in the decision. Children can also come up with their own plan or idea.

How do we build resiliency and self-reliance in our children?

I think the biggest thing is to give them opportunities to make choices, decisions and even mistakes. Also, give them opportunities to fail in the little things, and move on.

Do you find, in this society where no one wants to be seen to make mistakes, that this would be difficult for parents?

It is very hard. That is why I like the button “I Dressed Myself” [for children in case] someone says, ‘God, this woman let her child dress like that?’ You just give all that up. We are trying to be perfect, but we don’t need to be. We judge our kids in those first two chapters in life. They have a lot of chapters to go. You can make mistakes as a parent.

What challenges will parents face in the future?

It is human connectedness. Inter-generationally, we can depend and seek support from one another, and learn from the wisdom of our elders. We need to work to create those strong relationships.

How can parents encourage their children to reach their full potential?

Encouraging a child means that one or more of the following critical life messages are coming through, either by word or by action: I believe in you; I trust you; I know you can handle this; you are listened to; you are cared for; you are very important to me." 

It is critical that we teach this next generation how to think – not just want to think.

*This interview has been edited for brevity and length.