Child-development experts believe that children sometimes tease because they are working out anger, frustration, insecurity, or sibling rivalry they experience at home. Other times, they might be uncertain about their ability to make lasting friendships and express this anxiety through teasing.
Lewis Lipsitt, an emeritus professor of child psychology at Brown University, describes the preschool years as a time when kids grow more sensitive to individual differences.
He also says that as children get older, they interact with more kids and more diverse types of kids, which often leads to more competitive activities. This competition for attention or playthings, Lipsitt says, can cause children to denigrate their competitors by excluding them from play or by teasing them about some aspect of their difference.
When it comes to reports of teasing, a parent has to walk a fine line: You want to take your child's complaints about teasing seriously, but you don't want him or her to become a tattletale or a perpetual victim. But if it appears that your child is being teased repeatedly, they will need adult intervention.
Acknowledge that it's hard for kids to simply ignore teasers.
Tell your child stories of when you were teased, to give him or her a sense that teasing is universal and surmountable.
Avoid the temptation to cast teasers as bad guys. Instead, help kids to think about why teasers behave the way they do. Is it the only way they know to get attention? Kids can even ask teasers why they're acting this way, which may cause the teasers to examine — and eventually change — their behavior.
Ask the teachers or other adults how they are teaching kids acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and encouraging compassion among the children.
A key to shrugging off teasers lies in children's own self-confidence, which comes not from being told to be confident, but from actual successes kids accumulate as they grow up.
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