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Teasing: Showing Your Child How Words Hurt

June 4, 2014

teasingTeasing is often a natural part of life, and can be harmless when done in good fun. But when someone’s feelings get hurt, it’s not natural or fun for anyone involved. Teasing can also quickly turn into bullying, and whether your child is the one teasing or the one being teased, it’s important to educate your child about how playful banter can wreak havoc on a person’s emotional well-being.

Discuss Feelings

If your child is being bullied or teased, the first thing parents or nannies should do is discuss the natural process of feelings. “Teach children about shame or embarrassment when teased or bullied,” says Renee Fredrickson, Minnesota-based psychologist in private practice. “Most children feel ashamed of whatever they are teased about, unless the teasing is entirely playful, and more sensitive children feel ashamed even then.”

When you feel ashamed, you feel worthless or worth less than others, says Fredrickson. “This feeling makes you believe that you are different or not as cool as other kids,” she says.

The effects of teasing can cause children to become silent. It can also stop them from telling parents, teachers or even friends about what is happening, says Fredrickson. “Every child is vulnerable to shame and it is the nature of children to hide as a defense,” she says. “Magical thinking cause children to feel that if they tell you, even you will find them wanting.”

One of the most effective ways to discuss teasing and bullying with your child is to discuss the feelings that accompany the actions. “I teach children (and adults) that shame or embarrassment is always a lie,” says Fredrickson. “Everyone makes mistakes, has accidents and has things that are different from others. So you made a mistake or have big ears or are smaller or bigger? You will feel ashamed, but that feeling is a lie.”

Talk to your child about pushing through that feeling or ignoring it so they can tell you what happened.

Watch for the Signs

As a parent or nanny, you can help your child cope with teasing or bullying by watching for signs that one of these things has occurred. According to Fredrickson, classic signs include general unhappiness, anger, destructive behavior, isolation and not wanting to go back to school, daycare or even a social group.

If you suspect your child is being teased or bullied, Fredrickson recommends keeping your questions gentle. “Do not press the issue if you sense your child is being evasive,” she says. “Just ask them to think about it and that you may ask them about it another time. Remind them that you can help.

What To Do If Your Child is The Bully

If a child is a bully, it is likely they have been bullied, says Fredrickson. It can happen anywhere – at school, at home with siblings or on a play date. “Honestly face the idea that you, your spouse or a sibling may be bullying your child,” she says. “For example, several adults and children revealed that their father or an older sibling would ‘wrestle’ with them. The father always won, of course, and would not stop until the child cried.”

Even though these interactions may begin innocently, Fredrickson warns that if you are stronger, you must be gentler. “Any use of greater force to hurt a more vulnerable person should not be allowed in your home,” she says. Insist on a violence-free home and do not excuse any hurtful behavior because one person started it.

And while it’s common to fall back on the rule “use your words,” it’s also important to stress that this should not include mean or cruel words.

In addition, it helps to teach children how to be an encourager of others. “This is best demonstrated through the parents positively encouraging their child,” says Christine Hammond, registered mental health counseling intern with The LifeWorks Group in Florida. “Telling the child to encourage others and then not modeling it will not help them to learn how to encourage others.”


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