By: Rebecca Perlman Coniglio, LCSW
Author of Lily’s Little Life Lessons, www.amazon.com
Since I am fortunate to have this space to talk, teach, and think out loud, I want to get you teens out there to be more aware about teasing. I hope that your parents have shown you the video that surfaced this week of middle school boys teasing a 68 year old bus aide. I hope that it made your skin crawl the way it did mine and countless other outraged viewers. In case you have not seen it, several young boys said awful things to a grandmother on the bus while another boy taped it and of course it wound up on my beloved Today Show. Once the story hit the media, some of the boys and their parents issued statements of apology, but that is the thing about teasing, once the words are out there is an apology a little too little, a little too late?
I have never been teased in the vicious manner as that woman on the bus was, but I am often teased in “good fun.” I have seemed to be the target of playful teasing since I was a little girl. Teasing can range from mild to severe, but even mild teasing can be hurtful to those of us who are sensitive to it.
So what can you do if you are teased even in “good fun” by a sibling, a good friend, or anyone? I think like other topics I have written about, it comes down to communication. You have to have the confidence and the courage to let people know how you feel and how you would like to be treated. This is not an easy task. Most people try to take the teasing and be a good sport and play along until one day when they just can’t take it anymore. Teasing can have negative effects. The words people say to you and about you can cause you to have lower self-esteem if you start to believe that what they are saying in jest is true. Try not to have that to happen to you. Instead, know yourself, like yourself, and do not allow other people’s insensitivity bring you down.
I think this advice is important to the teens out there whose families are going through a transition such as divorce. You may be feeling sensitive enough and not in the mood to be teased. So speak up and ask the person or people to please stop. Surround yourself instead with people who understand what you are going through and who do not need to get a laugh at your expense.
If you are someone who tends to tease others stop and think about how your words make them feel. Be mindful of what your friends are experiencing in their lives and how words of kindness can go farther than a quick witted jab. Try to read facial expressions and body language. If your friend is not asking you verbally to stop
teasing her, look into her eyes. What are you doing to her heart? Is it worth it? Know when it is time to stop, and if you have gone too far apologize and try not to do it again.
The grandmother I mentioned earlier has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from total strangers to go on a much needed vacation and even to retire. The boys who teased her will have to live with their shame for the rest of their lives. On a much smaller scale, I was teased in good fun today by one of my closest friends, and later I received a voice mail from her saying that she hoped I was not upset by what she had said. After listening to the message I felt like a million dollars-my friend knows me, understands me, cares about my feelings, and that makes me lucky!
Tell me about your thoughts on teasing. I promise when I respond I will not make even one joke!