When Words Hurt: How to Help Your Child Handle Teasing
By Erika Scott
In this article:
It's a fact of life—children tease each other. While you can't always prevent the teasing, you can teach your kids effective ways of dealing with it.
At some point in their children's lives, most parents will probably need to help mend egos bruised as a result of teasing. Teasing can occur on the playground, in the classroom, or even among a group of friends—and while it's hard to prevent provocation, parents can empower their children with strategies to help them respond confidently to teasing.
A Supportive Parent Response
If your child complains of being teased, don't overreact; responding calmly and supportively will help her feel safe. Help your child calm down and then ask questions. Evaluate the situation and decide whether your child is being teased or bullied; there is a marked difference between the two. Though unpleasant, teasing is somewhat mild and does not cause physical harm. Bullying is done with the intent to cause harm, distress, and humiliation, and often occurs as a group behavior. Fully assessing the situation will offer a clearer picture as you determine the next course of action.
Heather Wincek, a mother of two in Rogers, Minnesota, believes that parents should give teasing their full attention. "Listen to your child. Don't brush off what he has to say. Depending on the type of teasing, discuss solutions for how to handle it in the future." Wincek encourages her children to notify an adult immediately if the teasing appears to be threatening.
What Teachers Can Do
If your child is being teased at school, it is essential to notify the classroom teacher. Managing student relationships is an integral part of a teacher's job, and you should expect a quick and supportive response. When teasing occurs, educators must work with their students to develop specific strategies to address the harassment.
Nicole Stadler, a fifth grade teacher at the Tower School in New York City, asks the child who has been teased to explain his side of the story in detail. She suggests sitting down and discussing the situation with the child doing the teasing. Once the two parties are together, the child who has been teased can share how the behavior made him feel. "Often the victim of teasing is hesitant to have a face-to-face conversation because he fears further teasing," says Stadler, "however, I find these face-to-face talks are usually the most effective way to prevent further teasing."
Meredith Seaberg, a second grade teacher in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, follows a similar approach. "We talk about what was hurtful, how the other student might feel, and decide what can be done to fix it—which is always the AA: Apology and an Action."
After the teaser has apologized, Seaberg encourages students to brainstorm actions that can be taken to fix the problem and ensure that the teasing won't happen again.
If you find that your child's teacher is unresponsive, ask to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation. It is important that your child attends this meeting to explain the facts. Ask to work in partnership with the teacher to prevent further teasing. If the teacher still doesn't take the problem seriously, consult the school psychologist or social worker. If the situation worsens and progress isn't being made, approach the school principal for assistance.