Lucky Seven Family

Tuesday Tip #24: “Harmless” Teasing

Earlier this year I chaperoned one night of my son’s 7th grade class week-long field trip.  It was a trip filled with all types of learning experiences:  dissections and field observations were a few of the activities.  On the evening I attended, the kids participated in a simulation experiment that involved the Underground Railroad.  Parents and students participated together – we started with the  students being treated as if they were slaves working in a cotton field.  The counselors were trained to be the slave owners.  The “slaves” were yelled at, ugly words were thrown at them, and they could not make eye contact with their “owners”.  They were then rescued by an “abolitionist” and taken through the forest on a trek through Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and ultimately into the safety of Canada.  Throughout the trip we were yelled at by “farmers” and had to pay to be on their land and we were hidden in a “safe house” from a sheriff.  This experience culminated in a sit down of all the kids with the counselors to discuss the experience.  They talked about differences in people (skin color, hair color, eye color, clothing choices, activities they enjoy) and how and why the slave owners decided they were superior to the slaves.

The counselors used this experience to tie the lesson to bullying, discussing the reasons people bully and the harm it can cause.  One of the points raised was that putting other people down is usually a way to try to make yourself feel bigger or better.  The other important point I took away from the evening was even “harmless” teasing or “joking” can really hurt.

When our blended family is together we try not to tolerate even the “joking” and “harmless” teasing.  I’ve see this behavior from all of the kids at some point and, even as parents, we are not perfect .  When I hear it coming from one of the kids (or several!) I try to explain to all of them the age-old adage:  “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”.  As they’ve gotten older, I do take severe criticisms seriously and usually take the offending child separately for a conversation about their words.  Teaching children that words do hurt and can have deleterious effects on self-esteem is important.  Respect for others, even brothers and sisters, is truly necessary.  The other lesson I focus on is the offending child’s self-esteem.  What is going on that they feel the need to put someone else down?  Perhaps this is the most crucial discussion point.

Listen to your family, watch their behavior, take the opportunity to teach them…

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