Are Your Kids Teasing Each Other?

Teaching Your Child Not To Tease
I’ve been thinking about the topic of teasing recently because our two boys (currently 3 ½ and 2 ½) are starting to tease each other more. They get along very well, and most of the time their teasing is playful. I hope it stays that way. But they’re already starting once in a while to get each other upset through teasing. It’s not intentional, but it’s something I want to help them with so they don’t get used to saying hurtful things to each other or anyone else.

Kids teasing each other is pretty common, and I think a little teasing is inevitable. Teasing is a natural way kids use to seek attention from each other and entertain each other. Some teasing is “soft” in that it doesn’t really hurt the other person and might even amuse them.

But a lot of teasing can get pretty harsh and negative, putting down other people for the sake of personal attention or entertainment, so it’s good for kids to learn boundaries and standards early on. The bottom line: we don’t do things that we know might unnecessarily hurt someone else.

If a child is regularly teasing others in a hurtful manner, it could be a sign that

  • They feel rejected and are desperate for attention
  • They don’t know how to socially interact in a positive constructive manner
  • They feel inferior and are bullying others to boost their own self-confidence or sense of self-worth (albeit in an unproductive and offensive manner)
  • They’ve seen others do it and are just copying what they’ve seen.

Here are a few ways you can help your child learn not to tease others and find other alternatives instead.

1. Teach your child appropriate ways of entertaining others.

It’s OK to want to entertain. People like being entertained. But we should learn how to entertain them in ways that are productive and don’t hurt others. Telling jokes, talking about riddles, or putting on magic tricks are all ways that children can entertain each other without hurting feelings.

Children should also learn that they should not always take the spotlight on themselves, but should also pay attention to others, letting other people share their ideas, participating in games other kids come up with, etc.

2. Teach your child to think about others.

If they put themselves in the other child’s shoes, how would they feel if they were being teased? It wouldn’t feel nice. Ask them to remember a specific time when someone teased them and how they felt about it. So why would they do something that they know makes someone else upset? Encourage them to think instead of ways they can help others feel valued instead of inferior.

3. Help your child develop a healthy self-confidence.

Children often tease others when they feel inferior and want to raise themselves up by feeling more powerful or “cool” than someone else. Helping them increase their own self-confidence can mitigate the attraction of teasing others.

4. Talk to your child.

Give them the opportunity to explain to you why they teased someone. Understanding their motives puts you in a better position to respond and help them find alternative behaviors.

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