Dealing with Teasing and Bullying
Bullying and teasing is one of the most common problems children face. Although some forms of bullying is obvious, it can result in negative consequences if left undetected for long periods of time. There is a difference between bullying and teasing. Bullying is an act of aggression where the intent is to harm the other person. Motivations for bullying vary. It could be the pleasure of asserting power over the other person or trying to increase their status. Teasing, on the other hand can be a social exchange that can be neutral, friendly or negative. Teasing depends on how the person responds to it. If the child takes it as a joke, it’s a joke. If they take it seriously, it is serious. Teasing unfolds differently for boys and girls. In boys, teasing is done to establish a hierarchy or to get attention. If the victim responds by getting mad or upset, the teasing will usually intensify. If the victim responds by laughing, than usually the teasing stops. In girls, teasing is done to establish social norms. If a girl gets upset, it does not usually intensify the teasing. As stated in an article written by Nancy Darling, PhD, “the typical response is that most hated of remarks.”
Teasing however can turn into bullying.
Teasing becomes bullying when it is repetitive or when the intent is to hurt the other person. Your child may suffer physically and emotionally. Grades may drop, refusal to go to school may develop and they may even suffer from depression and low self-esteem. There are signs that your child may show when he is the victim of bullying. Some of the signs are:
- frequent crying
- refusal to go to school
- unexplained bruises
- low grades
- changes in social life, sleep, appetite
- refusal to engage in pleasurable activities
- changes in the way your child talks about himself-(constantly putting himself down)
- poor concentration
What can you do to help?
It is important for you to help your child by being empathetic. Provide the space for communication. Be supportive and help him overcome the bullying and teasing. Do not brush off what your child tells you by responding to him “just ignore it” or “forget about it.” Bullying is a serious matter and should be addressed appropriately. There are some things that a parent can do to help their child overcome teasing and bullying. Some techniques that can be implemented are:
Teaching assertiveness. Many children may have difficulty asserting themselves. If handled badly, the teasing can increase or lead to fights. Teaching children assertiveness skills is important. They must know that they have rights that should not be violated and they also need to respect the rights of others. I often use a technique in session where I have different cards with several different situations (for example, making fun of a child’s haircut, cutting in line, breaking a child’s toy on purpose, etc). Then, I explain that I will be the Aggressor where a situation will be enacted in session. For example, I might make fun of a child’s haircut. The child is The Assertor where he needs to find assertive ways to respond to the Aggressor (me). The child in this situation may say “It’s okay if you don’t like my haircut. I do and that’s what matters.” After session, I also suggest it to the parents and encourage them to role play different situations where the child finds assertive ways to respond.
Having a positive self-concept.Teach children the benefits of having a positive self concept by listing experiences that made them feel good and had the biggest impact on how they felt about themselves. I also suggest parents to have their child say a different positive attribute about themselves in the mirror each day. This will help filter out the negativity they may have about themselves and learn to focus on the good qualities. Teach them the benefits of positive thinking. Whenever they have a negative thought about themselves teach them to visualize a stop sign and help them to turn their negative thoughts into a positive one.
Avoid the bully. Tell your child to stay away from the bully in the hallways or playground and to surround himself with positive friends.
Expression of feelings. Sometimes teasing is a way children test others for the strength of the child’s emotional control or ability to deal with social confrontations. It is important to teach your child how to handle teasing and bullying. I often tell children to tell an adult they trust and feel comfortable with. Expressing their feelings to the adult will hopefully lead to thinking about what to do next. Children can also express to the bully how they feel, why they feel the way they do and what they want the bully to do.
Use humor. If an adult is not present they can smile or laugh at themselves, acknowledge the message in a humorous way, turn the teasing into a joking reply, and accept the teasing but make the situation humorous. This teaches your child to treat teasing as a test for his humor and any potential friendships that may exist. The bully wants to hurt your child’s feelings. Help the child to learn to laugh at themselves and accept their faults. Nobody is perfect. For example, if your child is called “fatty,” teach him how to reply in a humorous way instead of reacting in anger or aggression. For example, the child may say “I am overweight. I need to do more exercise,” and teach your child to walk away with confidence. I also teach children to imagine that they have a shield and the teasing bounces off them. Also, they can say “so?” to show that the teasing does not bother them.
Teach your child to develop problem solving skills. You can teach them to think about steps on how to solve a problem when they are the victim of bullying and what might happen next if they choose to solve a problem a specific way.
Hobbies and activities. Find activities and hobbies for your child to do outside of school. This will help build peer relations outside of school and help build confidence in themselves and counteract the negative effects of bullying.
Bullying is a serious problem in today’s youth. If your child is the vicim of bullying, take action and do not take it lightly. I have added a website which provides with resources, books and interventions for parents and guardians on bullying. Visit www.stopbullyingnow.com to get more information on what you can do to help your child.
Nieves, H. (2015). Dealing with Teasing and Bullying. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mental-health-awareness/2014/01/dealing-with-teasing-and-bullying/