Monday, February 20, 2012

What Do You Think?: Teasing the Kid Who Doesn't Sound Like You

Scenario: Casie is in the 5th grade and is very popular with her classmates. Everyone wants to be her friend and play with her during recess. Casie has played with the same friends since she was in the first grade, and they have become a close group of girls. One day, Casie’s new classmate Lisa comes up to ask if she can play with Casie. Casie starts laughing at Lisa because she has a stutter. She says, “No Lisa, you can’t play with us because you sound weird. Why do you even talk like that?” Casie goes on and starts fake stuttering back at Lisa. All her friends are laughing and they start making fun of Lisa too so they can be as cool as Casie. Lisa starts to cry and runs into the bathroom.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Why do you think Casie reacted the way she did to Lisa? Do you think she thought about her actions before doing them? Might she have acted differently if she wasn’t surrounded by her friends?
  2. Why do you think kids tease each other in general? What did Casie gain by teasing Lisa? Do you think Cassie will get in trouble for this?
  3. How do you think Lisa feels? How might this affect her in the future?
  4. Have you ever made fun of someone because they speak differently? Why did you do it or why didn’t you? How do you feel about that now?
  5. If you saw someone being made fun of, would you try to stop it? What would you do?
  6. Have you ever been teased for the way you sound before? What might you do if you were? Would you tell someone?

* Every seven minutes, a child is bullied at a school yard. Bullying is serious and can range from verbal to physical taunting. It can cause emotional and physical pain which could have long term effects on those who are teased.

* There are often differences in the way boys and girls bully. Boys may use more direct verbal and physical bullying tactics, while girls may use more indirect and psychological tactics for bullying. All of these can be extremely detrimental to a child’s emotional and physical well-being.

* Bullying has changed to now include cyber-bullying, which can involve texting, social media, e-mail, and harassing phone calls. Nearly 42% of kids have reported being bullied online and many have had this happen on more than one occasion.

* Megan Meier was a teenage victim of cyber-bullying when other created a fake web page to gain her confidence, which was then used to taunt her mercilessly until she finally hung herself. She was only thirteen years old at the time. Http:// is the site for the foundation that was created to work toward prevention of cyber bullying.

* Children may have access to weapons, and if bullying escalates, the bully or the bullied could bring it to school with devastating consequences. One study estimates that one out of twenty students has seen a gun at school.

* Teasing often occurs most in areas with the least amount of supervision, such as hallways, buses, and on the way to or from school. Without an adult witness, it often has to escalate before it is reported, as many kids are taught that “tattling” is wrong and they often can feel too ashamed to say anything.

* Despite many schools having “No Tolerance” policies for bullying, it still occurs on a frequent basis amongst all grade levels and ages. Studies show that around 30% of kids have been bullied, have bullied others, or both. A country-wide study showed that 74% of 8-11 year-olds state that teasing and bullying occurs in their schools on a regular basis.

* Even some of the kids who are considered to be “popular” can still feel very insecure. They may try to distract from this by making fun of other kids.

* Children will join in with teasing other kids if they feel that it is going to allow them to be part of the more popular crowd, even if they do not feel it is the right thing to do.

* Kids who have more confidence are often less likely to tease others. Kids who have more confidence are often more likely to remain resilient when other kids tease them.

* Children often imitate those around them, especially parents, older siblings and kids, and other older mentors. Positive role modeling has a big influence in how kids carry themselves and interact with those around them.

* Arming kids with tools that help them to be more self-confident, such as humor and positive self-image, will allow them to have better outcomes when encountering peer pressure, teasing, and other challenging situations.

How Mentors Can Help:
* Talk to your mentee about times when they have been teased or when they have teased other kids. Share examples from your experiences. Talk about their feelings and your feelings, as well as what can be learned from both. If your mentee is hesitant to talk about it, you can use your examples and other examples to make them feel more comfortable opening up.

* It is important to take any reports of serious bullying seriously. If someone is causing harm to your mentee, please follow up appropriately. Encourage your mentee to look at some outlets for their feelings, such as this movement:

* If your mentee has participated in teasing, talk with them about what guided this decision. Encourage them to step into the other kid’s shoes and think about how they might feel if they were being teased that way. Talk with them about some ways they can treat all of their peers with respect, no matter what someone else does. Make sure not to criticize this behavior in a way that might cause them to shut down; rather try getting them to understand what is motivating them to tease others and helping them to come to the understanding of treating others how they would want to be treated.

* If your mentee has been teased, talk with them about why they think the kid(s) who teased them is feeling and why they might be doing this. They may not respond as well to this right away, so it might be helpful to talk about how someone who is doing the teasing is often insecure about something themselves. Make sure not to excuse this behavior, simply make it so that the kid being teased has a better understanding that it is not about them, even if it feels that way.

* Let your mentee know that, no matter what anyone says, they have nothing to be ashamed about. Encourage them to embrace the things that make them unique and not to be ashamed of anything about themselves.

* Whether or not your mentee has been teased, work with them on ways that they can use humor and self-confidence to avoid being influenced by others in a negative way. Encourage your mentee to stand up for his or herself in a positive and non-violent way and to not let anyone else have power over them.

* For LGBTQ identified mentees, encourage them to look into the messages of hope on the “It Gets Better” website:

Additional Resources:

** Tips for responding to teasing
** How to help a child being teased
** "Teaseproofing" a youth
** Helping Kids Deal with Bullies
** Facts about Bullying
** Facts About Cyberbullying

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