Is your school-aged child being teased? Kids can really be mean to
each other, and when our kids hurt, we hurt, too. The older they get,
the harder it is to fix things for them. The good news is that there
are concrete, positive steps you can take to help your child handle
Respond to this problem on two levels.
- First, focus on your child’s emotional needs. Don’t rush to
problem-solving too fast. Allow your child to feel their feelings and
vent them in a safe place with a safe person (you!) Actively listening
(which includes eye contact, focus, repeating back, and empathetic
noises like “uh-huh,” etc.) will actually provide a measure of relief.
It feels good to tell your story to someone who cares and is really
- Then, when your child is done venting, ask if he wants your help,
and if so, how he wants you to help. You may discover that all they
wanted was to talk about it. That really happens! Even kids sometimes
just want validation, not problem-solving. Alternatively, your child
might ask for a “fix.” Depending on your child’s age, a phone call to
parents or teachers, etc might be appropriate. However, no one can
really make them stop, so we’d better move on to level two.
One of the most important things we parents must do for our kids is prepare them for The Real World.
The Real World is imperfect and full of unfairness, bullies, and
cheating. Much as we might like to, we cannot shield our kids from
teasing (or other unpleasantness) for their whole lives. It will find
them, so we’d better teach them how to deal with it on their own.
Here are steps to take and lessons to teach your child in order to
better equip him to deal with teasing (or other crummy peer behavior).
- Overall ego-strengthening. If a child feels anxious about a
particular aspect of themselves, they are likely to react more when
teased. The reaction is the teaser’s reward. (This is why some people
say to “just ignore them”). But, a child who can recognize her own
diverse strengths will have an easier time internally rejecting the
rude comments. If your child doesn’t feel sensitive or vulnerable to a
comment, they won’t react. This makes it less ‘fun’ for the teaser, so
it won’t happen as much.
- Humor. Nothing disarms like humor. There’s a great scene in the old Steve Martin movie “Roxanne”
where his character (who has a very large nose) makes fun of a guy who
had made fun of his nose. Steve Martin embarrasses his teaser by
humorously pointing out that the teasing comment was uncreative and
common. What a way to reclaim the upper hand!
- Insight into the other person’s possible motivations. It helps to
know, for example, that kids sometimes tease because they feel insecure
themselves. This also emphasizes the important life lesson “It’s not
about you,” which can be powerful and life-changing.
- Teach your child the power of not being defensive. “Yeah,
I’ve got a big nose. And, I’m the 4th grade champion at basketball.
Wanna play?” In this example, the child being teased acknowledges the
truth in what the bully is focusing on (which eliminates any ‘sting’,
and the shifts the power) then refocuses the conversation onto an
aspect of himself where he is powerful and capable.
I hope that these ideas are helpful. For more information, or to ask
questions, leave a comment or send me an email through the website!