Let’s get this out of the way up front. Not all teasing is bad. We’ve all teased or been teased. It’s not necessarily bullying.
Teasing is a part of the bonding process for families and friends. It’s a part of flirting. It’s often completely good natured and harmless.
If everyone including the person getting teased laughs, smiles, and truly finds it funny, it’s not a problem.
Where it becomes a type of bullying is when it crosses the line. Let’s revisit our definition of bullying:
“Bullying happens when one person hurts or scares another person on purpose.”
If the person being teased isn’t laughing and they don’t find it funny, it turns into bullying.
We’ve all made a comment that we thought was funny, but turned out to be offensive. It wasn’t on purpose, so it’s not bullying.
It becomes a type of bullying if you continue. At that point you know what you’re saying is hurtful, but you’re continuing to say it anyway.
A normal person teases to make everybody laugh and feel good. A bully teases to hurt their target and make themselves feel superior.
One of the biggest difficulties in dealing with bullies that tease is drawing that line between harmless teasing and hurtful teasing.
A bully’s first line of defense when confronted about their teasing is “I was only joking” followed by a denial that they knew they were being hurtful.
They use that thin gray line between harmless and hurtful teasing to their advantage.
Types of teasing that constitute bullying are:
- Put Downs
- Hurtful “Jokes”
- Nasty comments, including comments about a person’s race, physical attributes, sexual orientation, or economic background.
Teasing is one of the most hurtful and common types of bullying. By understanding the difference between harmless teasing and hurtful bullying, we’re better prepared to confront bullies who use this tactic.