Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teasing is Bullying Too

 Many think that a bully is someone who only threatens or physically hurts someone, but the truth is teasing is bullying too. We’ve all heard the phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Name-calling is a form of bullying that sometimes scars people for life. When one makes fun of another person for the way they look or degrade someone because they have a learning disability, they may think it’s funny but in reality they’re hurting the other person deep inside.

Recently a friend of mine attended her twenty year class reunion.  A woman came up to her and shouted: “You, you are the one who made fun of me all the time, I used to go to bed crying myself to sleep. SHAME ON YOU!”

My friend couldn’t remember what she used to say to her but apparently her target remembered every word; it was etched in her brain. This is what teasing does, it’s not cute and it’s not a part of proper social behavior.

There was a survey conducted by Professors Roberta and Warren Heydenberk, Ed. D.
They asked hundreds of students which was worse, physical or verbal bullying. A clear majority surveyed preferred the physical bully to the verbal.  One 12 year-old girl explained, "When you get punched, the pain goes away in a few minutes, but when someone says mean things to you or about you, the pain lasts a long time. Sometimes it even gets worse the next day.”

So how do we put an end to the teasing? I think we’d be living in a dream world if we said we can end it, but I believe we can each work to reduce it by not only teaching positive communication skills but to also walk the talk in our own lives. Children learn by example and when we as parents/teachers lose our temper and call a child stupid or labeling them as “bad kids or brats” we are hurting them deep inside. Our goal should be to give our children a safe academic environment while at the same time building a character based foundation at home by which they can come to understand differences and embrace the social principles of respect and responsibility.

It is one thing to teach respect and responsibility and it is another to live it.

It is one thing to tell our children not to tease another and it’s another to make a mean comment about another person in earshot of are children. The point is we need to remind ourselves that words are so powerful that they can touch the heart or bruise the brain. If we want our kids to stop the teasing and name-calling we must first clean the mud off our thoughts before we open our mouths. At schools and at work we are told to evaluate our programs to see if what we are doing is working.  I say daily we must evaluate our words to make sure that they are respectful and kind while at the same time reminding our children that life is about getting along with other people, it is about building friendships, stepping stones by which to learn and lead successful character based lives.

Copyright Richard Paul 2013