“Iyakin!” “Ay tabachoy.” “’Di ka puwede sumali samin.”
Because a child has yet to learn all the rules, teasing is a common way to test limits, learn about boundaries, and see how people react to certain behavior. For example, “When the other child gets mad or starts to cry, the child doing the teasing knows her words can get others to react,” explained Penn State Extension, an educational organization from the Pennsylvania State University.
As preschoolers start to get the idea of belonging to a social group, like a barkada, teasing can also be a way of isolating other kids. “You may see a few children playing together. When another child comes to join them, he is told, ‘No, you can’t play with us,’ said Penn State Extension.
Sometimes, a child teases because he saw an older sibling or a friend do it. He doesn’t know yet he’s already hurting a person with his words. “Young children often don't know what kind of behavior counts as teasing,” states BabyCenter. “So when a preschooler calls someone fat or short, they may just be saying what they see, rather than trying to be mean.”
A preschooler’s teasing is often mild, but it can still definitely hurt the child at the receiving end. Nipping teasing in the bud will help parents raise a kind and caring individual and prevent things from escalating into bullying.
What to do if your child is being teased First, let your child know that teasing can hurt, and her feelings are normal. Be specific but clear. BabyCenter recommended the following script, “I think it makes you angry when Oliver calls you a baby, doesn't it?” Talk, listen and empathize with your child about what’s going on. Getting her perspective helps you better tackle the situation.
Encourage your child to find friends who are nice and make him feel happy. “This will help to reinforce the idea that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect,” said BabyCenter.
Teach your child ways to respond to the teasing. “Often a child who teases isn't expecting the person they are teasing to stand up for themselves, so a simple, strong response often works wonders,” advised writer for VeryWell Amanda Rock.
It may be difficult, but empower your child to stand up for himself by ignoring the teasing or walking away, advised Healthy Children, the parenting resource site of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Something as simple as this may be all it takes to quiet down a preschool-age teaser. If your preschooler finds this hard, try role-playing at home, said Scholastic.
Also, remind your child that it’s okay to ask a teacher or grown-up for help. “A teacher can support your child in the classroom by promoting positive social skills and helping her develop a broad range of friendships,” Debbie Glasser Schenck, the director of Family Support Services at Nova Southeastern University. You can also schedule a talk with your child’s teacher to hear her insight on the matter and see what you can do on your end.
What to do if your child is the one who teases Even from a young age, children can already show signs of empathy, according to psychiatrist Dr. David Sack. By preschool age, a child will be able to associate her feelings with the feeling of others. So, talk to your child about how his words can hurt. Ask him to put himself in the other person’s shoes. How would he feel if mean things were said to him?
Keep calm, be respectful, and kind. Reacting negatively and harshly to your child’s teasing may send the opposite message of what you’re trying to say.
Discuss how every person is unique and different in a myriad of ways. There are differences in people’s bodies, the way they talk, the way they dress, and lots more, and it is not acceptable to make fun of somebody just because they are unlike us.
There can also be underlying reasons for your child’s teasing. She may be having trouble making friends at preschool and is feeling left out. Teasing may be her “way of showing that's she's frustrated or anxious,” said BabyCenter. It may be a good idea to talk to her teacher about steps you can take to handle this.
Set a good example as well. Keep in mind that your home needs to be free of teasing if you want to enforce the message that saying mean words is wrong. Avoid making comments that will make your child feel embarrassed or ashamed. Check if your child is being teased by siblings or other people at home.