Teasing is an inevitable part of growing up. However, some children can be more sensitive to teasing than others, with some researchers suggesting that brighter children tend to be more sensitive than their peers. Whatever the reasons for your child’s sensitivity, it is important to deal with it carefully, acknowledging their feelings and concerns, whilst helping them build their own coping strategies. Try these simple techniques to help your child cope better:
1. First, it is important to establish what your child is being teased about, and why it upsets them. This step is important for two reasons; firstly, it should help you establish that your child is in fact experiencing teasing, and not bullying, and secondly, by listening to your child, you are validating their feelings, and letting them know you care. If we dismiss their concerns about teasing, then we are simply adding to their distress.
When your child is telling you about the teasing it is important that you don’t offer any advice, pass any judgment, nor trivialize their concerns by telling them they are overreacting.
2. Once you have established whether your child is being teased about the same thing each time, or whether it is simply random comments, you can help them find strategies to cope. I adopt the “try and deal with the issue yourself, and if you can’t, then tell someone who can help” approach. This is much more empowering to the child, and helps them remain independent. However, for this approach to work, you need to help your child identify a number of strategies, which they practice at home, and then try out, until they find a strategy which works for them. I have found the following strategies to be the most effective:
a. Ignore the teasing, and walk away. Teasing often continues because children get a reaction. If the reaction is removed by walking away, often the teasing stops.
b. Have a standard comment, which they say when they are being teased, e.g. “I don’t like it when people talk to me like that”, and then walk away. This comment must be delivered calmly and confidently, for it to be effective, which is why it is important to practice at home, before trying it out.
c. Change the subject. Ignore the teasing and engage the child who is teasing in something completely unrelated. This requires thinking on your feet and is suited to some children more than others. Again, the comment must be delivered calmly and confidently to be effective, as it usually throws the teasers off balance.
3. The key point with these strategies is that you want to discourage your child from losing their temper, and remain in control.
4. Teach your child techniques for staying calm and in control, such as:
a. Holding their head high, rather than low
b. Look people in the eye
c. Talk assertively and firmly, without raising their voice
d. Breathing techniques to reduce tension
e. Counting to ten in their head before offering a reply
f. Reminding themselves that they are bright and capable children who can resolve this issue themselves.