Educating Your Kids This Bullying Month on the Difference Between Bullying & Teasing
October has been established as National Bullying Prevention Month. Parents should take the opportunity this month presents to educate their kids about the differences between bullying and teasing, as it can make a huge difference in their children’s lives.
Bullying Creates Significant Damage
Older generations often dismissed verbal bullying as simple teasing or with phrases like “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never harm you.” Even when the bullying turned physically violent, the bully’s victim was generally advised to “buck up” and hit the bully back. Not only are both of these responses ineffective, but they also can have dangerous results for the child or teen being bullied.
A group of researchers took data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and created a behavioral model on what happens to bullied students. Their results were alarming, indicating that children who undergo bullying are inclined to suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, substance abuse, violent behavior, and depression.
There was no difference between the harmful effects of in-person bullying or cyberbullying, as the researchers indicated that both were equally harmful.
Teasing Is For Communication, Bullying Is Meant To Harm
With such serious consequences for bullying, it becomes that much more important for parents to help their kids understand the difference between teasing and bullying. As there can be a fine line between the two behaviors, it is critical that children understand how to avoid crossing that boundary.
Teach Kids To Determine Teasing
Teasing is a form of playful communication. The intention is not to harm the other person but instead to communicate values, ideas, and constructive criticism. For teasing to be appropriate, friendship or other close relationships should exist, and the teasing should stop when the person requests it.
Verbal teasing – Bantering, teasing talk between friends and family is a common form of bonding communication. It can also convey some constructive criticism. For example, say a child pulls out a crumpled homework assignment. A friend may tease them, saying “Whoa, I guess I’m never loaning you a book!” The playful critique is unlikely to hurt a friendship and can help reinforce that the other child should take better care of their property.
Physical teasing – This form of teasing skirts often skirts the fine line between teasing and bullying. If a few friends are playing keep away with another person’s belongings, it is teasing as long as the people who are teasing stop when requested.
If either of these teasing behaviors was done by someone who is not a friend or is an active antagonist of the recipient, then the situations would be bullying.