I don’t poke fun at parents who ask me what to do when their child is being teased. So be gentle and considerate as I provide information on this topic and some suggestions worth keeping in mind.
Teasing and making fun of a child is never okay. And yet kids will experience teasing, find it difficult to handle, and not know how to respond. So step one in helping your child deal with this issue is to create a supportive environment where your child can comfortably tell you that they are being teased, where you can listen calmly, and then can tell your child you understand their feelings and then can help them deal with this problem.
What might you suggest? The goal to tease-proofing your child is to give them skills to be able to handle teasing. Once they gain the ability to feel good about themselves and handle being teased, the teasers will start looking for someone else to bother.
For example, you might try teaching your child to use a confident voice to tell the child doing the teasing to stop. A way to do this is to point out what your child does well each day, which will help improve their sense of self-worth and self-confidence so they gain that confidence in their voice.
Another approach to teach your child is to try calmly ignoring or walking away from the teaser. It is important to teach your child to not react, since reacting to the teasing just encourages the teasers to do it again. You might encourage your child to be accompanied by a friend when coming in range of a teaser, since there is support in numbers to prevent the teasing from occurring.
Role playing with your child to practice these responses can make them more comfortable. Most importantly, you need to stress that your child should not tease back, fight back or say something hurtful in return, which can only make matters worse. It is worth seeing whether or not your child’s school has a program to reduce teasing and bullying – and to potentially help your child.
And finally, parents, be good role models and don’t make fun of your children in hurtful ways or tease them about things where you know they will be overly sensitive.
Hopefully tips like these will not be made fun of when it comes to helping your child overcome teasing.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.