There has been a lot of attention given to bullying and rightfully so. Bullying is mean and can cause serious damage to an individual.
For parents, how do you discern if your child is being bullied or teased? Do you know the difference? Is there harm in being teased? Where do you draw the line between protecting your child and helping them to “grow up?”
In one of my first jobs I was the only teenager on the site. I was constantly “picked on”. My co-workers called me funny names, glued my lunch box shut or put scraps of lumber in it to take home, played tricks on me and laughed when I messed up. I went home and told my dad that my older co-workers were picking on me. Dad quickly responded, “they are teasing you because they like you. If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t clown around with you.” I didn’t understand at first. They weren’t being mean and they weren’t bothering me. I just wanted to fit in. Later in the summer, one of the boss’s sons came to work with the crew. We were about the same age but this kid didn’t get it. He wandered around and didn’t pull his weight. He had an attitude and it was clear the other workers didn’t want him around. They never teased him. They avoided him. I finally understood what my dad was talking about. I was part of the crew and I learned to dish out the teasing like they gave it to me.
I am still a teaser. I love to tease children by calling them funny names. I’m surprised how many children and young people don’t have a sense of humor anymore. Maybe it’s all the politically correctness. Maybe its all the fear that is instilled in this generation to watch out of bad people. Maybe its the lack of people skills brought on by electronic media. Life is just a little too serious for this generation. They have been raised without enough “play” time and too much organized events.
But back to the issue: how and when do we protect our children? In short: teasing is funny/light hearted, bullying is mean and negative. Teasing comes and goes, bullying is focused and relentless. Teasing affirms a relationship, bullying enforces weakness and tries to enforce power and intimidation. In either case, a parent should take the opportunity to teach their children to grow through the experience. If your child is having a serious issue, step up and protect them. No child should be forced to live under constant harassment.
Here are a couple of sources if you are interested in reading more: