Teasing involves poking fun at a person in a playful manner. It can be done with nicknames, jokes, or lighthearted insults. Many people consider teasing to be nothing more than innocent banter. Of course, you’ve probably heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me,” countless times. But is teasing really harmless? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Here are a few ways to tell if a person’s teasing is all in fun or if it has crossed a line and become genuinely hurtful.
You Can Judge Between Harmless or Harmful Teasing by Looking at Its Impact
If good-natured teasing makes people take themselves less seriously and enjoy a healthy laugh, it can actually be beneficial to a relationship. It can even help family members and friends to form a special bond. When it comes to getting involved in teasing with children, however, adults need to be careful. Kids often haven’t developed the kind of emotional intelligence to pick up on social cues yet. That means they sometimes aren’t able to tell the difference between playful teasing and mean-spirited teasing.
If a person – whether a child, teen, or adult – seems genuinely hurt by teasing, it’s time to stop. Even if the person engaging in the teasing means no harm yet the recipient is taking it personally, feelings and relationships can suffer damage. One of the challenges of communication is that the words people speak often end up having unintended consequences.
Teasing that Gets Out of Hand can Lead to Bullying
There’s a fine line between a tease and a bully. Teasing that persists once the recipient has made it clear that they don’t appreciate it is actually a form of bullying. If someone tells you that they don’t like you calling them a certain nickname or highlighting a certain characteristic about them, it’s your responsibility to take them seriously.
Teaching Kids The Difference Between Playful and Hurtful Teasing
When it comes to social interaction, it’s part of both nature and nurture for children to engage in teasing. It could start out with something as harmless as tapping someone and then quickly dodging out of the way when they look over their shoulder. This type of teasing is perfectly acceptable, because it doesn’t make fun of a person’s looks or personality. Another time when both children and adults tend to engage in teasing is when they get nervous. It’s a device that people use to help cut tension during serious moments or to break an uncomfortable silence.
A good rule of thumb to use when explaining playful vs. hurtful teasing to kids is to ask them to put themselves into the shoes of the person they’re teasing. Ask them, “How would you feel if someone teased you about that?” Try to teach them to empathize with the other person.
Teaching kids to learn the difference between harmful and playful teasing can make a positive difference in their lives for years to come. If more and more kids and adults would learn to treat others as they wish to be treated, we would see more peace and harmony in our homes, our schools, and in the world around us.