Setting boundaries in relationships can be difficult for adults.Understanding what teasing is fun and which is hurtful is hard for everyone. It is even more difficult for children to comphrend. One of the main goals of a child is to fit in and be well liked by their peers.
Sometimes a message the child is receiving can have a barbed edge or be a subtle put-down by what your child believes is a friend.
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What is Teasing
Kids often have a hard time deciphering whether a remark is a joke, a deliberate attempt to annoy them or a signal that someone is making fun of them. Teasing can used either playfully or maliciously.
In family relationships, many siblings tease one another. They know just the buttons to push to make their brother or sister mad. They also know just how far they can go before they get in trouble with the parents.
In our family our son loved to stare at his sister until he got a reaction, usually his sister screaming. It was harmless and fun for him, but very annoying for everyone else.
The same can be said for groups of friends. When children congregate together, such as in school groups, or social groups they learn quickly what works best to push other people's buttons.
Taunting is More Hurtful
To taunt someone is to ridicule in a hurtful and mocking way. Many bullies on the playground target the physical attributes of a child they consider weaker than themselves. They mimic those physical attributes and exaggerate them to an audience of bystanders.
Not only is it hurtful for a child to hear; "Fatty, fatty, two by four-can't get through the bathroom door-so she does it on the floor" but it is also embarrassing for the child being taunted because others are often there to witness the humiliation. Yes, that one still lingers because a mean boy in school yelled it at me every recess. It wasn't until years later that I finally recognized I was a slender child who had developed early, and he was a jerk!
Help Your Child Cope With Jerks Who Tease
If your child is being teased please, try doing what my mother did. She helped me find ways to feel good about myself. She let me know that she empathized with me. She taught me there are always going to be people who won't like you for one reason or another. That not everyone gets along with everyone else.
Let your child know that teasing and taunting is a way to grab power and assert control. Help your child to problem solve ways to challenge the teaser or walk away without giving them the attention they crave.
My brother taught me to shake my arms when the jerk made a comment and to say "Wow, I'm just shaking off the stupids; I don't want them on me." It stopped the actions of the teaser and made the onlookers laugh.
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It is important to share with your child that words have a great effect on others and we need to consider what we are saying. If it is not kind, then don't say it. Empower your children and yourself to use words of encouragement, and consider the feelings of others before you make any remarks.
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