TeasingDR. RAY GUARENDI
Dear Dr. Ray, My daughter, Kara, is twelve years old and mature for her age. But she is very sensitive to any kind of teasing at school. Besides telling her to "just ignore it," which does little good, what can I do? ¯Sensitive myself
Often the problem is compounded by the fact that those qualities you strive hardest to instill in your youngster — diligence towards schoolwork, kindness towards the underdog, moral courage — are the very same qualities that can mark her a target for teasing.
Your observation that urging Kara to "just ignore it" has little impact is perceptive. She wants to ignore it; she probably doesn't know how. Here's where we grown-ups can help, as most of us too have been teased quite a few times over the years.
Begin by talking together about teasing. Explore questions like: What is teasing? Why do you suppose some kids tease? Are they jealous? Do people make fun of what they don't understand? The more a child understands teasing, the less she'll believe the crowd. For instance, she may be telling herself things like: The other kids don't like me because I get good grades; I'm stupid because I never raise my hand; All the kids think of me the same way the teasers do. Kids can conjure up a host of self-critical, totally false notions in the face of teasing.
Next, give your daughter some "helper thoughts." These are simple, realistic thoughts she can tell herself over and over. Some that I offer kids to help them take a little of the sting out of cruel words are: Everybody is different. I'm happy to be myself; Teasing is just words. And words can never hurt me (Right, this is a variant of the old "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words . . ."); I'm glad I'm not like everyone else; I'm a good person because God doesn't make junk.
You can create whatever helper thoughts you think will best suit your daughter's situation, considering the following guidelines. One, helper thoughts are simple. They are easy to remember and hold onto in times of teasing trouble. Two, they are accurate perceptions of reality. They can be used throughout childhood and into adulthood. Don't you occasionally have to talk to yourself to stay calm? Three, initially these thoughts probably will have no more impact than "just ignore it." Like individual raindrops on a sun-baked field, however, eventually they will sink in and become convictions.
There's a bright side to being teased. It's one sign that a child is not just another face in the crowd. It's an indication that in some identifiable way she stands out. I'm sure Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa heard more than their fair share of teasing when they were kids.
Ray Guarendi "Teasing." kidbrat.com.
Reprinted with permission of Ray Guarendi.
Raymond N. Guarendi, aka Dr. Ray, is a practicing clinical psychologist and authority on parenting and behavioral issues active in the Catholic niche media. Guarendi is an advocate of common sense approaches to child rearing and discipline issues. Guarendi received his B.A. and M.A. at Case Western Reserve University in 1974, and his Ph.D. at Kent State University in 1978. He is the author of You're a better parent than you think!: a guide to common-sense parenting, Good Discipline, Great Teens, Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It; Straight Answers to Hearfelt Questions, Discipline that lasts a lifetime: the best gift you can give your kids, and Back to the Family.
Copyright © 2002 Ray Guarendi
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