“Sally has big ole teeth, she’s so short and skinny.” “Billy has an egg head and looks like a rolly polly.” “Oh, I’m just joking.” “Man, can you take a joke?“
These are some things you hear kids say on the playground, but then they follow with, “Oh, I’m just teasing you.” A joke is supposed to be funny to all parties, not just the jokester.
Let’s Define Teasing
I’m using the simple definition from Merriam-Webster: “to laugh at and criticize (someone) in a way that is either friendly and playful or cruel and unkind. To annoy or bother (an animal).” It’s ok to have a good laugh and joke around, but it’s never ok to do so at others’ expense.
The Good Teasing – Friendly Teasing
Yes, there’s such a thing as good teasing. It’s that fun joking amongst friends, you know when both of you are laughing and having a great time. No one’s feelings are hurt, and no one walks away upset. Maybe there’s an inside joke or two between friends, perhaps a nickname is given to one another without any hard feelings.
Let’s look like at a few examples of friendly teasing on the playground: “Hey, Red, let’s go swing.” Red’s real name is Sally, but because she has red hair many people call her “Red.” As long as Sally doesn’t take offense, then it’s acceptable. Maybe you see a boy take something from the other and runs off with it. As long the other boy is laughing and NOT upset then it’s friendly teasing, but as soon as one says to stop, enough is enough then the teasing should stop IMMEDIATELY! When you stop teasing when told to, it shows respect to the other person.
The Bad Teasing – Being Cruel and Unkind
“Hey, you are so skinny, do you ever eat?” “Hey Sarah here comes your friend Mr. Elephant! I don’t think it’s a good idea for you get on that swing, you may break it!” Yea, you guessed it, this is considered bad teasing. In many cases, the kids are saying this will try to say they are just joking around. No, it’s not a joke amongst friends, and both parties are not laughing about it. Or maybe both are. Maybe the person being called these names laugh hoping you will stop. Maybe that chuckle is their way of not crying. The most important rule here is NOT to laugh when someone is unkind to you. Tell them to STOP and let them know it hurts YOUR feelings (here’s that word again, YOUR/YOU. Remember, you control your feelings and don’t allow others to tell you just deal with it).
The Ugly Teasing – The Line Is Cross
We have entered THE DANGER ZONE! When I talk about ugly teasing, I am referring to the “jokester” being out of control. They have intentionally, or unintentionally recruited others to join in with his/her teasing. Feelings are incredibly hurt, tears are flowing, tempers are flaring, and it’s time to call in reinforcement. Reinforcement being an adult.
Ugly teasing has moved past teasing and is now possibly bullying. This is why I tell my children and recommend that other parents instruct their children to speak up. If the victim never speaks up, people may not notice or think much about the situation. Remember, you are YOUR first line of defense.
How To Handle Bad Teasing? How I Instruct Our Children
- Don’t stand there taking any hurtful words. Speak up! Tell the person to stop and that you don’t find it funny. This will eliminate them saying they didn’t know it hurt your feelings. At the end of the day, you are the only person that determines if something is funny and acceptable.
- If the “jokester” doesn’t stop, tell an adult. If the issue is happening at school, let the teacher know as well as letting parents know at home. If the child is at a local park, sporting event, etc. tell your parents or coach.
- Be a listening ear to your child. I set aside a few minutes each day when my girls arrive home to hear about their day. You can learn a lot about a child’s day those first few minutes of walking through the door. If you’re just starting this, it may be a bit difficult to get them to open up, but starting this chat session early in their life can become routine.
- Keep a mental or written note of any particular child’s name that may cause your child harm.
- Watch your child’s mood. Just like us as adults, the each handle things differently. We have three kids, and each can handle situations in their own ways. Be aware of their breaking points.
- Most importantly, be supportive and help them work through these situations.
Teasing amongst peers is an awesome way to make friends and build relationships. It all comes down to respecting the other person’s feelings. Remember, if everyone can have a great time teasing, then it’s good. As soon as someone is uncomfortable or utters STOP! Do just that.
Know You, Be You, Love You
Preschool2teen will be doing a weekly post on Bullying. Please come back to visit with us each Friday. If you see something you like or think will benefit others share it via social media or let them know about the site. Promoting self-esteem, anti-bullying & education.