Harmful teasing occurs when there is an imbalance of power.

Should Kids Be Punished for Teasing?

by Amy Morin

Public education about the dangers of bullying has made most parents aware that it is important to intervene when teasing becomes hurtful. Despite increased awareness about bullying, approximately 28 percent of students between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being bullied in the 2009 National Crime Victimization Survey. If your child's teasing crosses the line from playful to hurtful, discourage it from happening again by punishing your child appropriately.

Playful Teasing

Teasing doesn't necessarily need to cause hurt or pain but, instead, can incite fun and laughter. When kids tease one another in a playful manner, they shouldn't be punished. Playful teasing should never target a person's ethnicity, religion, disability or other factors that are out of the person's control. Instead, it should occur between people who have a close relationship and should never be repeated over and over again. A child who teases playfully should be willing to stop if the other person asks him to.

Hurtful Teasing

If teasing crosses the line from playful to hurtful, intervene in a firm but direct manner. Hurtful teasing can cause a child to feel ashamed and embarrassed. It may include put-downs, name calling or even harassment. Children who engage in hurtful teasing refuse to stop even when the other child asks them to. Other signs of hurtful teasing may include a group of children ganging up on one child. A child who teases others in a harmful way, such as teasing a child about a disability, should be punished.

Punishments for Teasing

If your child engages in hurtful teasing, punish him to teach him that the behavior is unacceptable. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends creating rules about teasing and establishing clear guidelines about teasing. Place your child in timeout or remove privileges if he breaks the rules. Monitor your child's interaction with other children and prevent teasing from becoming hurtful. Supervise your child's online activities to ensure that he isn't bullying peers on social networking sites.

Teach Alternative Behaviors

Find out why your child teases other children and teach him new ways to meet his needs. If your child teases other children as a way to get attention, teach him more positive ways to gain attention. For example, show him how to provide praise and compliments to other children rather than making fun of them. A child who teases others may also benefit from learning how to respond to people who are different from him in a socially acceptable manner.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

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