Teasing and bullying – is there a difference?

There is heightened focus on bullying because there seems to be an increasing number of incidents of this form of harassment. It happens verbally, physically and online.

Not much is said about teasing which calls for the question: Teasing and bullying – is there a difference?

Researchers say there is a difference – that teasing can be playful and helps children bond, but when it is meant to hurt a person and when it’s done repeatedly it can become bullying. Good-natured teasing is a form of communication – and a way to laugh together. For example, a friend misses a catch and hears, ‘nice one’, echo around the cricket field, everyone laughs and there are no ill feelings. Done in the right spirit, this banter can be positive. But remember, what is playful to one child may not feel playful to another.

Verbal bullying is done to embarrass the victim – not to bond with friends. The goal is to enhance the status of the bully. But… bullying may start out as teasing. When teasing is done repetitively and is meant to be hurtful or threatening, it becomes bullying.

It is important to teach children the rules of conversation and for them to understand when teasing is acceptable and when it becomes hurtful, or borders on bullying. Role-playing with them is an effective way to help your children learn as they practice situations where you tease them – positively and negatively – and they need to respond.

If your child is being teased, you could ask:

  • Are the children who tease you your friends?
  • Do you mind being teased?
  • Do you tease back?
  • If you asked them to stop teasing, would they?
  • If you told them that they hurt your feelings, would they say they were sorry?

The answers to these questions would give you an idea whether your child was being positively teased or being bullied.

Remember too, that children who struggle with social skills need additional help to understand how to react to teasing. They can’t tell whether they are being teased in a good-natured way or being bullied. This can lead to their inappropriate behaviour.

If you need support in this matter, we, at Capulum College, are here to help you help your child.

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