Is Teasing Really Bullying?
“I know that bullying is a very sensitive topic. I know that it is horrible and senseless and terrifying. I have no doubt about the fact that in many cases the experience of being bullied is life altering and, tragically in a few cases, life ending.
I also realize that an attempt to be moderate on this topic may not be popular or the current trend. But I am going to try. Not because I think real bullying should be treated moderately but because I think it may be time to look at how far the pendulum has swung and see if collectively we need to reevaluate. I believe we must do this in order to really and truly address this problem.”
“We need to see the complexities in each individual case and not generalize and lump them all together. For example, I recently saw this article from The Globe and Mail shared over social media channels, doing its time on Facebook and Twitter: My teen doesn’t know the difference between teasing and bullying. I read it and shared it and asked, “what do you think?”
Just to give you some context, the article basically came down to this statement:
“Teasing is bad. It hurts. The solution is not to be able to take it. The solution is not to toughen up. The solution is not to tease.”
Hmmm. Really? “Teasing is bad” as an absolute? So therefore, “teasers are bad”? Or worse, “teasers are bullies”? This just doesn’t sit well with me. It is so frighteningly extreme, so very black and white.
I come from a long line of teasers; my grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles. In fact, I am a teaser myself. I love to tease my kids. And they do it to me to. We love to laugh at ourselves and find humour in each others’ foibles. Has it ever gone too far? Yup, but most of the time it is in good fun and we laugh and poke fun back.”
Ok, I have read and reread this 2011 article and I have to admit, it doesn’t sit well with me. I invite you to read it as well. I read the comments from the others that posted on that site and it really seems like they are saying that we all should just learn to relax (and in doing so) and teach our children to do the same.
I have two small children. They have friends. I have made it a point to never be condescending to any of them nor to be dismissive to their comments. What they say and inquire about, no matter how mundane it may seem to an adult, should be acknowledged. They are learning the social queues of interaction from us. They are learning from us how to treat one another and what it is like to be listened to and to have their ideas appreciated.
I grew up around teasers. I am not ashamed to say that I did not like it. I don’t like watching adults treat children as if they are there for entertainment. Yes, children laugh and act silly. Yes, sometimes they are fascinated by things that may seem quire ludicrous to an adult. But it is in my opinion shameful to dismiss them and their ideas as childhood “ridiculousness”.
A child’s feelings do matter. Their thoughts and feelings are important to them and we should respect them and help encourage them. I had a neighbor one time about eleven years ago, I remember that he and his wife were the parents of a little girl, she must have been 4, “Dora”. I remember that summer watching as Dora would ride her bicycle throughout the neighborhood, day and evening, without a parent-figure in sight. This was not a one time occurence, her parents were really absent. I remember her gravitating to my wife and I; wanting to help us in our garden, wanting to share with us her stories.
That continued throughout that summer until the day she disappeared. Her father frantically knocking on neighbor’s front doors. His desperate tears. I remember a sheriff, a neighbor, running to their home. He found her. She was asleep under he bed! An absent parent, with an absent child.
Have you seen/witenessed an adult, one who constantly is quipping with a child. Zinging out one-liners because he/she doesn’t know how to just interact with them; instead, finding it easier to poke fun at their clothing, stature, hair. Guess where that child is going to practice this learned behavior. At school. Amongst his peers. Amongst his teachers.
Do children rebel? Do they test the limits of what they can do and what they can say? Of course. Their brains are growing, their identity is emerging. Bed time at 7:30 pm competes with building Lego towers. “Because I said so” doesn’t carry as much weight anymore as they learn what it means to seek an explanation that makes sense to their young minds.
I am a self-confessed, concerned parent. I practice active listening with my children and their friends. I acknowledge it is difficult at times with all the demands that life put on us, swim practice, grocery lists, bills, lost socks, etc. Do I tease, sure, of course I do, but always in the right context and always respectfully. Do I laugh at myself when life throws a curve ball, you bet. Is it hard, sometimes? Yes. But I do it anyway, because I want my children to see that taking life seriously robs you of the chance to recognize the beauty of laughter. Do I practice demonstrating respect amongst others? Absolutely, it is my job as a parent to show my children how to interact. I make sure the words of correction and guidance I provide my children are in line with my own behavior when I interface with others (especially when my children are around).