I pride myself in trying to be the least judgmental mom I can be, and there are very few things I see parents do that make me cringe.
But I find it really difficult to witness parents teasing young kids.
I’m not talking about joking around and being silly — my husband and I act that way with our kids all the time. The type of teasing I am talking about is humiliating or shaming kids. I am talking about words and actions that are unkind and meant to embarrass. For example, think about when an adult gives a negative remark about a child’s appearance. I recently witnessed a father say, in front of his child, “He needs to lay off the ice cream or he’s going to be fat like me,” and then chuckle about it.
When I see parents, or any adult, teasing a child this way, I think to myself, “What are they trying to accomplish?” From my point of view, it seems the adult is trying to make him or herself feel better by tearing down a kid — and then often laughing about it.
Society and parents teach children that they must respect and listen to adults. So is a child going to stand up and say, “Mom/Dad, your words are hurting and confusing me”? No, of course not. We’ve taught our young kids that we (parents/adults) are right, we know more than them, and we know what’s best. Plus, our children want to be like just like us — they want to please us as parents. Believe it or not, your young kids think you are the coolest person they know. They cheer for the same sports teams we cheer for, they like the music we expose them to, and they often talk like we do.
So naturally, if you are teasing your kid, they’ll, in turn, tease others. And let’s just call it what it is.
Teasing a peer in a hurtful way is bullying.
So when you find out your kid is now bullying other kids at school, what do you do? You’d probably have a sit-down talk with them about bullying or teasing and how it can hurt people’s feelings. I wonder what your kid is thinking, having learned this particular skill from you. A child’s not-fully-developed mind will surely be confused.
I am just a mom making a general observation, so I did a little research to see what the experts say. Dr. Meg Meeker has said, “When a parent teases a child, the child initially feels hurt. Then, the child feels that he has been betrayed (duped) and understands that he can’t trust the parent who is doing the teasing. So, by the time the child realizes that the teasing is for the purpose of humor, he doesn’t feel like laughing. No one likes being teased — ever. Adults may nervously laugh after they have been teased, but even they feel humiliated beneath the laughter.”
We all love our children immensely and want them to grow into kind, confident, and strong adults. So let’s all agree that teasing is not kind — and stop modeling this hurtful behavior.