Why should there be no teasing?

Bird Droppings January 2, 2023
Why should there be no teasing?

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Hindu proverb

So often speak first and clean up afterward, simply walking away quite generally, leaving whoever I am conversing with confused and bewildered. Having a long week ahead and hoping to get some serious writing in later today, I was cleaning up my email when I found one from a dear friend nearly twenty years ago. It was the first one of that day and was about a subject we were deeply involved with working with high school students.

My friend was a youth leader in the Atlanta area and an organic gardener. Several years back, we discussed teasing, its effects on children, and how what is said can often be more potent than any physical contact, especially with teenagers. My friend offers this check on teasing and three things to look for.

“I have always said you recognize “teasing” if three things are present: There is a shred of truth to what is said, someone has their feelings hurt, you wind up saying …’ I was only teasing. We can’t take those moments back, and they are often some of those life-changing moments, often not for the “good” Yea, we humans need a 10-second delay like TV so we can adjust what we say…sure would make for a kinder world.”

With another Superbowl around the corner for those old enough to recall, I wonder if Janet Jackson would take her ten seconds back from that Superbowl slip-up.

“Jests that give pains are no jests.” Miguel de Cervantes

As I was wandering about the internet, I found a website for The Center for Effective Parenting that offers parents information. Often, that same information can apply to teachers, and we as teachers often see children for more hours awake than parents do, sadly. The Center for Effective Parenting offers a possible guide:

“Parents should try to find out from their children some specifics. For example, parents should try to find out what the teasing is about, who is doing the teasing, where the teasing is occurring, how their children have reacted to different episodes and what occurred afterward. Parents should try to keep track of such information for a few days to find out what precipitates teasing if there are things their children may be doing to encourage teasing, and if there seems to be some pattern to it.” TCEP, website

“Teach appropriate responses, ignore it, develop a quick tongue, Practice, provide lots of love and encouragement, Discuss it with teacher or daycare provider” Kristen Zolten, M.A., and Nicholas Long, Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

As I look at the expert’s rationale, it is a simple ABC’s, the Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence scenario, which I have brought up many times in looking at behavior. As I was reading this morning and thinking about zero tolerance for bullying in most schools, I found an interesting website, author, and ideas.

“Every minute spent in school handling interpersonal problems is a minute taken away from education. Students are all-too-eager to get away from academics. When they discover their teacher is willing to stop what he’s doing to deal with social problems, it is child’s play to fill up the school day with problems.” Izzy Kalman, Bullies to Buddies

As I reflect on my teaching style, I redirect, ignore often, and come back. Very seldom do I slow down to let teasing take the forefront. Izzy Kalman borrows heavily from the adage, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Kalman is opposite to many educators in that aggression is not learned but genetic. It is an active part of the human condition and should be dealt with in that manner. Many books, articles, and doctoral theses have been written about bullying and teasing. The TABS, the Teasing and Bullying survey, is produced by The Mental Research Institute and can be a good resource and tool for teachers and parents.

As I sit here pondering, listening to the water running in my aquarium by the window and R. Carlos Nakai on the seven-note cedar flute hauntingly playing on my hearing aids, I can crank up most days a bit louder than normal while at home. This issue of bullying is real, and it is in us, and maybe far too often, we sidestep and look away as kids tease each other.

I look back to that first statement from so many thousands of years ago, “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” We can choose what we say that is not genetic that is learned and an active ongoing behavior subject to ABC. We can set an example for children which is known and not genetic. So, if we set an example, can we change the world and, maybe through natural selection down through time, do away with teasing and bullying? Research is still out, but I am still willing to try. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart, and regardless of your political followings, people are hurting and dying in Haiti who need our prayers and help, and always give thanks, namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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