Communication | Connection | Parenting

Teasing to Connect With Children

June 17, 2017

A Great Big Beautiful is about creating more love, joy, happiness and magic in our lives, and hopefully inspiring others to bring a bit of that home too. This week we ran into a problem in our home that stopped the magic in it’s tracks! We had to explore the situations and figured out what happened, and made a plan to prevent it from happing in the future.

 

Ryan loves to tease. It’s a fun, easy way to connect with the children after a long day at work. Most of the time this works, everyone laughs, and they feel more loved and closer to their Daddy. Twice in the last week it resulted in hurt feelings. Ryan quickly apologized, but he was at a loss as to why some teasing was good, and some was bad.

Once we stopped and I repeated his words back to him, it was obvious where the problem was. But it took a little bit more digging to figure out why other teasing is okay. I won’t get into specifics used for our children, but I’ll talk about similar examples I’ve seen other people use.

Some people use easy subjects to tease a child, “Oh that looks like a nice toy! Maybe I should have it!” if this works, the child giggles and says something like, “No, you’re too big for this toy.” Or something like that. If it doesn’t work, the child cries and instead of creating connection, the child forms a bit of distrust toward that person. Further teasing results in greater distrust.

Teasing that would leave a child feeling sad or angry in normal circumstances (toy taken away, favourite treat gone, hair cut off, not allowed to play with a friend etc) should never be done. An adult may realize they don’t mean it, but a child often doesn’t understand the adult’s meaning at first. Once the child does understand the adults meaning, it lets the child know that adult is not trustworthy. It leaves the child trying to guess when the adult means what they say and when they’re teasing – or lying (from the child’s point of view). For more information google teasing and children – so many articles about why you shouldn’t tease, ever.

Ryan and I’ve read many of those articles and we both agree with them, but there’s one small problem. Teasing is a way of showing and sharing love. Yes, people can learn knew ways of showing love, but taking away a person’s primary method of loving can be hard and cause damage to a relationship as well. Ryan loves to tease, but he loves his children more. So he’s careful when he teases. Yet something still went wrong this week.

After carefully looking at the ways that created feelings of happiness and love as well as the ones that created feelings of anger and sadness we realized there are two ways to tease.

One is to pretend to take away or prevent a person from having something they want. Teasing about a situation that would normally illicit feelings of sadness or anger. This type of teasing should never happen to anyone, especially  children.

The other way to tease is about something the child is good at or proud of. Teasing in a situation that would normally leave a child happy and/or proud. “Wow, you’re getting so fast, did you just run round the yard faster than the dog?” Whether the child agrees they were faster than the dog or not, it reinforces positive feelings about themselves.

Along with teasing there is a crucial second step. It’s important to stop and let the child know you’re teasing, let the child know you’re trying to make them laugh, and let the child know that you will stop if they want you to. In our home we don’t always stop to ask after everything we say, but at least every couple of days I stop and double check that the child I’m talking to understands and is okay with teasing. Also, if a facial expression, or body language makes me thing something is wrong, I also stop and ask.

There are times when teasing shouldn’t happen at all. If a child is really upset about something, don’t tease them, not even in a positive way. There are other ways to connect with your child in that moment. If a child has been going through something that leaves them really upset frequently (for instance sick parent, new baby in the house, new school etc), don’t tease. If a child doesn’t like teasing, don’t tease. If the child is younger than three, don’t tease.

Teasing, when done respectfully, can bring people closer together. The key is respect. Understanding the other person’s point of view. And understanding that a child’s point of view is not capable of being the same as an adult’s.