Eight-year-old Heidi ran into her house and burst into tears. Her mom, Elaine, threw her arms around her sobbing daughter and listened as Heidi described yet another day of taunting by classmates. "They call me Heidi Hippo and laugh at me," she sobbed. "They make me so mad!"
Heidi wasn't thin—but she wasn't overweight either. But with Heidi for a name and hippos in vogue among her age group, Heidi was fair game for a bunch of teasing children.
Unfortunately, teasing's a fact of life. But while some teasing's fairly innocent, other teasing torments. At its worst, teasing contributes to hurt, isolation, and even deadly retaliation.
When is teasing playful, and when does it turn destructive? How should you handle it if your child's the victim—or the teaser?
When Teasing Becomes Cruel
"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
No statement's further from the truth; words do hurt, and they do heal. The apostle James has much to say about the tongue's power: "And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right" (James 3:10).
That's why, when teasing's used as a putdown, it's wrong. One mother noticed her overweight 14-year-old daughter sitting on the family room couch, watching television. "Get off that couch before you leave a dent in it!" she laughingly remarked. But her comment wasn't funny to a young adolescent struggling with weight. Teasing that criticizes one's looks is especially painful, so teach your child she must never poke fun at someone about his or her body. It's off limits.1