Help Your Child Deal Better With Teasing
Teasing or being teased has always been an inevitable part of one’s childhood journey. In a milder form, it is often considered to be a form of playful social exchange, and can help promote acceptance and humility. It also helps children adapt to constructive criticism. However, not all teasing is friendly and it can often have harmful consequences. Hence, it is pertinent that parents identify the signs of bullying and take necessary steps to bully-proof children.
To begin with, we need to identify and understand the concept and types of teasing, nothing but deliberate provocation, verbal or otherwise.
- Playful Teasing: Good-humored teasing can help young children develop social skills that they will need in adolescence and adulthood. A humorous exchange between siblings would be a good example of healthy teasing, which is essential for the development of the child.
- Hurtful Teasing: Teasing that includes ridiculing, taunting, name-calling, and saying or doing annoying things often hurts feelings and causes the targeted child to feel sad, hurt or angry.
- Hostile Teasing: When teasing becomes hostile, tormenting or harassing, it can have far-reaching consequences on the child’s physical and mental health. It is crucial to spot the difference between playful teasing and bullying, so that you can help your child fight the battle and cope with hostile teasing.
Understanding the mindset: Why do some children tease?
The battle against bullying begins with identifying the root cause of the behaviour. Some of these factors could be:
- Attention: Most teasers are attention-seekers and use their negative behaviour to compensate for the lack of attention or love in their lives.
- Imitation: Children who are subjected to harsh parenting or teasing by siblings often delve on their own experiences to torment other children.
- Feeling of Superiority: Insulting others often gives the bully a sense of achievement and the feeling of being in control.
- Peer Acceptance or Dominance: Children often indulge in negative or aggressive behavior in order to appear ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ among peers.
- Lack of Understanding: A difference in culture, appearance or behaviour amongst children may often trigger teasing. For instance, a child with special needs may be targeted because he/she is different.
How can you help?
One of the key methodologies to help your child cope with teasing is to understand his/her perspective. It is also important to establish communication with children to show them that you stand by them. In the meantime, it is also good to teach them simple techniques that will empower them and prevent feelings of helplessness.
One such technique, called the PZW technique – Play it cool, Zip the lip and Walk away provides the child a coping tool by giving them a clear behavioural plan that is focused on increasing their control of the situation.1 This technique requires the child to:
- a) Play it cool: The child is trained by family and teachers to take careful control of his/her own facial expressions and body posture, and present a completely relaxed and non-agitative appearance.
- b) Zip the lip: The child consciously learns not to respond with any verbally aggressive language.
- c) Walk away: The child is also taught mental imagery or distraction techniques that help him/her walk away from the altercation.
Initially, the teasers respond by an increased frequency of teasing, as they are surprised and often taken aback by the change in attitude. However, the inability to elicit any response soon persuades them to give up teasing.
Watch out for warning Signs
Teasing which is repetitive, hostile or violent may need to be dealt with differently. As parents, it is also important to keep a lookout for signs of violence, inappropriate touching or physical contact. It is also imperative to see if the teasing is affecting physical or mental health, academic performance, or hurting the child’s self-esteem. In such extreme cases, the correct course of action is to work closely with teachers and administrators to put an end to the harassment.
Teaching children to ignore teasing: A cognitive behavioural family strategy for dealing with teasing and reactive bullying. Dr. Laurence Jerome. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 May; 15(2): 91.