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The Taos News




Dealing With Teasing

April 2015

Because of the attention bullying has been receiving, many behaviors get classified as bullying which are actually just teasing.  For example, kids get teased because they are short or tall or because they are smart or dumb.  They can also bullied for those same things.   What makes the difference?  Although the line between bullying and teasing may be fuzzy, it helps to make a distinction between them because the response your child makes will be somewhat different in each case. 

What is the distinction between teasing and bullying?  In general, behaviors are called “bullying” when a person repeatedly picks on another person in order to have power over them or to hurt them.  Teasing can be annoying or upsetting, but the person doing it is not deliberately out to hurt the other.   In general teasing is meant to be light, harmless, and fun. 

Even though teasing is not deliberately meant to harm, it can become a problem when the person being teased feels hurt, uncomfortable, or put down in some way.  Often people who tease think the other person should be able to laugh or shrug off their jokes and comments.  However, sometimes teasing does hurt and no one should have to pretend that it doesn’t.  This means that if someone is teasing your child he has the right to stop it.  He doesn’t have to tolerate it, and he can take positive steps to do something about it.

What can you do to help your child be pro-active in stopping undesirable teasing rather than just standing around and allowing someone else to make him feel bad?  First, you can teach him not to let any teasing he does receive get the best of him.  Many times children tease just to get a rise out of the other person.  If your child reacts, he is actually encouraging more teasing to occur.  In these situations often the best advice is to tell him to mask his feelings and ignore the teasing if he can. 

Another tool  you can teach your child to use is to have him agree with the teaser.  For example, if someone calls your child a nerd, he could say, “Yes, I do feel like a nerd today.  It’s funny, I didn’t feel like a nerd yesterday!”  Because your child is not reacting the way he is supposed to, and because he is using humor,  the teaser doesn’t get a payoff and will often back off.  Another thing your child could do is simply ask the other person to stop, saying something like, “I’m not in the mood for this today.  Cut it out!”  Or she could walk away with her head held high while saying “I don’t like people making jokes at my expense.” 

Inform your child that crying and shouting or acting like a victim will likely make the problem worse as most teasers, feeling the power they have in the situation, will actually be encouraged to keep on with their teasing.  If the teasing does continue, encourage your child to talk with someone who can help.  You can help her think of additional possible solutions to the problem of being teased, and help her think of what to say when she gets teased in the future. You can also teach her the importance of sticking up for others and of asking others to stick up for them.

Lots of children chose ways to deal with teasing that aren’t helpful  and are even harmful just because they don’t know any better.  You can help your child do something better that will help him  unlock the power he has to work things out in ways he fees good about.  You will find him getting along better with others while you  will feel more successful in enabling your child feel more respected all around.


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