There is a difference between teasing and bullying

2013-01-23T11:00:00Z There is a difference between teasing and bullyingBy Julia Cook/Tribune correspondent Fremont Tribune
January 23, 2013 11:00 am  • 

Teasing is a part of life. Sometimes it helps us, sometimes it hurts us. Teasing is not going away, so we need to teach our kids how to deal with it effectively.

Teasing is a human social exchange that can be perceived as friendly, neutral or negative. The goal of teasing is to create closer relationships and make connections. Pro-social teasing helps to satisfy a fundamental human motivation - to be an integral part of a group. It has its benefits: Teasing can be playful, help to promote social affiliations, allow people to better deal with awkward situations, and help to bring both the teaser and the person being teased closer together.

Teasing turns into bullying when kids use it to gain greater social status, or when the intent of what is said or done is to harm. The best way to help your children deal with teasing is to teach them to understand it.

Here are a few tips that you may find helpful:

* Define the differences between teasing and bullying with your child: Teasing creates stronger relationships while bullying damages relationships. Teasing adds to your character as a person while bullying takes away from your character. Teasing occurs between equals (age, power, intelligence, friendships) while bullying occurs between people who are unequal. Teasing maintains dignity of respect toward a person while bullying is done to embarrass or hurt the feelings of a person. Teasing may include harmless nicknames that the target also thinks are funny. Calling a target names that are derogatory or directed at his or her religion, ethnicity, speech, appearance, etc., is bullying.

* Teach your child how to tease and accept teasing through body language, laughter and sarcasm so that he/she can see the differences between a serious and joking interaction. Use examples of each from your past, and share them with your child.

* Listen to your child without disagreement. If your child tells you that one of her classmates said her clothes are ugly, don’t jump in and reassure the child that her clothes are beautiful. If you do that, you infer to your child that she has been victimized. Instead listen carefully to what your child is telling you, and then work with her to come up with a plan to address this situation the next time it happens.

Teach your child how to respond when teasing turns into bullying:

* Remain calm, but serious.

* Assertively ask the person to stop the bullying behavior.

* If the behavior does not stop, ignore the person or remove yourself from the situation.

* If the behavior stops, thank the other person for stopping and explain how the behavior is making you feel.

Report continued bullying or hazing to an adult at school and an adult at home that you can trust. If you don’t want to tell them in person, write them a note. Signing your name on the note can be optional.

Julia Cook is a national award winning children’s author, former counselor, and parenting expert. She has presented in more than 800 schools across the country, regularly delivers keynote addresses at national education and counseling conferences, and has 42 published children’s books. The goal behind all of Julia’s books and efforts is to actively involve young people into her fun and creative stories and teach them to become life-long problem solvers. Inspirations for her books come from working with children and carefully listening to parents and teachers. For more information on this topic, check out “The Tease Monster” at

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