For the first year of your child’s life you try to get him to walk and talk. For the next seventeen you try to get him to sit down and shut up.
I’ve heard a few different versions and a few different responses to this recently. The first and most common response is “it’s just teasing”.
The free dictionary defines teasing as:
3. To arouse hope, desire, or curiosity in without affording satisfaction.
If it’s just teasing, then it could be all in good fun. I wonder if children find this as funny as some adults do. I also wonder where a person draws the line. What is no longer considered ‘just teasing’? Is it only ‘just teasing’ when it’s directed toward children? What about adults? Is it still teasing when one adult ‘teases’ another adult, and the other adult is left feeling hurt or angry while the first laughs?
One adult might think it’s hilarious, even a group might think it’s funny, but from the target’s point-of-view, this kind of teasing is often hurtful, irrespective of the intention of the teaser. When teasing is unwelcome, it may be regarded as harassment, a form of bullying or even emotional abuse.
Both my DH and I grew up in families that teased. The biggest difference was that I didn’t like the teasing, it hurt me. Every time I ran away crying I was told I was ‘too sensitive’, basically it was my fault. I’m sure my parents didn’t mean to hurt me, I’m also sure they didn’t intend to send the message I received: that I wasn’t good enough, and no wonder I was picked on everywhere, even my family didn’t like me as I was. It hurt.
Was I really ‘too sensitive’? Or might my parents/sisters stepped over the line? I say that because it was something that caused so much hurt, they should have stopped. At the very least they should have talked about it. What they really wanted to say, what they wanted me to hear, and found out what I was actually hearing.
Ryan saw his teasing as a sign of love. He teased as much as he was teased.
Before becoming parents ourselves, his parents would often tease us – both together and separately. I have to say I laughed along. I thought it was all in good fun. However, things changed once we became parents. When we told his parents they weren’t allowed to give our baby certain foods, they teased us. But the way they teased made me think they were trying to cover up their real thoughts by laughing about it and calling it teasing. I was angry.
On a couple different occasions Ryan has said something to Ella – teasing – and she’s gotten upset. At first he tried to shrug it off. He wasn’t trying to make her upset, so she shouldn’t be upset. That logic doesn’t work. Instead he looked at the way his comment made his sweet daughter cry. Teasing is only ‘just teasing’ when both parties are laughing. And that’s the way we (try to) keep it in our home.
Sometimes one of us will say something and someone will feel hurt or upset. We might say, “I’m sorry, I was just teasing.” But we also clarify the message we were trying to send.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all teasing is bad. About a month ago I stopped at Starbucks and ordered my drink. I asked for whipped cream, and the girl behind the counter looked me up and down and, with a smile, said “I don’t think you need the extra whip.” I could have been upset, but I honestly think she was just trying to tease me. She was new and the other person working knew me.I can’t say the comment made me want to stop and chat, but it did make me laugh as I walked out with two very … lively little girls.
What I am saying is that we need to be aware of the effect our words have on others. Something I find funny might hurt someone else. If I continuously teased Ryan in a way that hurt him, would his love for me grow? Or would he likely tell me to take a hike? What if we teased our children in a way that hurt them, would their love for us grow? Or would they take a hike? There is a fine line between teasing and being hurtful. And I believe it’s our job to teach our children where that line is so that they can navigate it on their own. Teach them that you never comment on a pregnant woman’s weight : p