While teasing may have a harmless connotation, it can cut to the quick and wound an innocent little one. Whether the teasing comes from well-intentioned adults or peers, get up to speed on the effects teasing can have on a youngster. Once you know the potential harms, do what you can to keep your kid safe from teasing’s cruel impact.
Toddlers and preschoolers often embrace teasing as a good-natured game to use to connect with and interact with others, states Gayle L. Macklem, school psychologist with the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association. At this stage and age, teasing feels fun and silly, seldom meltdown-worthy. The difference is that at this young and tender age, teasing isn’t meant to hurt and it isn’t done out of anger or spite. The attitude of teasing in fun usually makes it possible to accept the teasing in stride.
When Teasing Turns Hurtful
If an older child or parent teases a youngster, the effect can be quite a different story. Due to the age or maturity difference, teasing can even take on a power-play feeling with the little one feeling out-maneuvered and out-witted. Under the guise of fun and entertainment, teasing can become hurtful if it includes name-calling, put-downs and overt or covert hostility. A teasing victim might feel angry, sad or hurt at the brunt of this hurtful teasing, states the Education.com website.
Although a parent may have purely innocent motives, teasing a child can be a big-time risk, states Dr. Meg Meeker, pediatrician and author. Because teasing hides meanness -- ever so slight -- and wraps it up in a big joke, it’s possible for kids to feel even a tiny bit of meanness hiding under the humor. The result could be hurt, betrayal, lack of trust and even anger in an innocent youngster. Although it’s possible that parental teasing won’t have this impact -- wanna risk it?
As tough as it can be, try to develop some thick skin on your child, advises Beth M. Levy, MA, CAGS, NCSP, for the National Association of School Psychologists. Do some role-playing so your little one knows some snappy come-backs if she gets teased. Encourage your youngster to try to keep her emotions in check if she’s suddenly the brunt of teasing jokes. Reacting with high emotions might motivate more teasing. Tell your child to tell a big person if teasing bothers her.