Does your child get mad when adults tease him? Or does he even not know he’s being teased? Here’s why you need to respond when adults tease your child.
You’re at a family party, and your grandpa teases your toddler about pretending to take away his toy. He means well, as most adults do when they try to make kids laugh. But now the teasing has grown out of hand and your toddler gets upset.
On one hand, you don’t want to be that parent everyone has to be careful about what they say to her kids. So you laugh it off, while still dropping enough hints that it’s time to stop the teasing.
But you realize that your toddler gets upset. Or, perhaps worse, he doesn’t realize he’s the subject of the joke.
Why you need to respond when adults are teasing children
Dealing with people who tease your kids is a balancing act. You don’t want to go overboard and monitor what everyone says to your kids. Do that often enough and you might prevent others from interacting with them.
And some teasing isn’t even too bad. We all tease one another in good jest, so policing even the slightest hint of a tease may be too much.
But when adults cross the line, or your child feels upset, it’s time to respond when adults tease your child. Why?
Your child is just a child
Kids’ version of jokes and retorts don’t fall on the same level as adults’. My kid’s version of a joke usually runs from corny to downright strange. So when adults pit jokes on kids—no matter how well meaning—it may not sit well at all.
After all, your child isn’t an adult or even an older child who can retort with a good comeback. He’s not used to this kind of joking, especially when it seems like he’s being made fun of. He may have a feeling a line has been crossed but doesn’t know how to defend himself.
I’ve been in other situations where a friend—again, well-meaning—was teasing my son. Except the joke was way over my son’s head and didn’t even know my friend was having a laugh. In those cases, it’s still important to say, “He’s teasing, it’s a joke” to call it off.
Adults don’t always take kids seriously
Let’s say your child does get that it’s a joke on him, and has even attempted to defend himself with a good-natured “Stop.” Some adults may still not take him seriously, assuming he’s in on the joke or is able to laugh it off.
If you know your child has had enough and his words are falling on deaf ears, it’s time to stand up for him on his behalf. Coming to his defense not only lets the other adult know to cool it off, it also shows your child that his words should be heard, and that his feelings are valid.
We shouldn’t laugh at a child’s expense
Some adults don’t mind being the subject of jokes—personally, I’m rarely one of them. So I can’t imagine why adults should laugh any more at a child’s expense when we hardly do it to one another.
It’s fine to laugh with kids about a joke, but it becomes a problem when they’re the subject of one. You can always tell one from the other by imagining how your child would feel if he found out you’re laughing at something he did or say. If he can laugh right along, then it’s a joke he can join in on. If he ends up in tears, then you know adults are laughing at his expense.
It doesn’t matter if your child knows he’s being teased or laughed at or if he’s oblivious to it. Not only is being the subject of a joke a terrible predicament to be in, it’s even worse when kids don’t even realize that they are.
Dealing with adults teasing your child can get tricky. Some people may not think their jokes should be taken so seriously, while others believe their teasing is done in affection. Some kids can stand to be the subject of jokes, while others would burst into tears if he even so much as knew others were laughing at him.
To make it even worse, some adults can feel offended if you tell him to stop teasing, and others even hold grudges. They might turn it around on you and say you’re making a big deal out of nothing, and relationships can feel extra tense.
What to do when adults tease your child
There’s no clear definition on what is or isn’t appropriate, what with the different personality types and relationships you may have with those around you. But if you do feel like adults are teasing your child too much, try a few of these suggestions.
See if the teasing needs your attention.
You may not need to stop all teasing, so you’ll want to base your involvement on a few factors:
- What’s your child’s reaction? Did he seem bothered, or is he laughing right along?
- Does the adult tease everyone? Does your child understand he teases everyone, or does it feel like the adult is only teasing your child?
Say something lighthearted.
Depending on the joke, the person and how often they tease, you can start diffusing the teasing by saying something lighthearted but still to the point. For instance, if you notice your child is getting upset, you can throw the joke back on the adult.
Keep it playful, but also with a hint of “Don’t go there.” Let them know it’s enough, and often, just the fact that you’ve come to your child’s defense, even in a playful way, will already send that message.
Address the adult
If the teasing persists, and the relationship with the adult matters to you, take that person aside and let him know it needs to stop.
Start by empathizing and relating to the person. You might say that you know he loves your child, or that the joke isn’t a big deal to most people, or that you notice your child doesn’t take to teasing too well.
Then simply say that the teasing isn’t having a good effect on your child. He may not understand the joke, or doesn’t realize it’s meant to take lightly. Explain how, even though you know it’s a joke, your child sometimes doesn’t.
Then follow it up with suggestions on what your child does like, such as when he gives him snacks, or roughhouses with him. This reassures the adult that his relationship with your child is important and even valued when expressed in other ways.
What do you do if the adult is easily offended? You might want to let a few jokes slide by, or hint slightly instead of confronting him right away.
If you do decide to confront him, you might want to do so in private so he doesn’t have an audience. And finally, reassure him that you and your child value him so much, regardless of the teasing.
Your little one is still a child, one who may not ‘get’ the joke. He doesn’t appreciate being the subject of one. And sometimes, they feel frustrated when the teasing has gone overboard.
Be his advocate, the one who’ll step in. You’ve got years of experience with social settings, much more than him. Step in to be his voice when he needs it the most.
Read more posts about respecting kids:
- Why You Should Definitely Intervene when Adults Overwhelm Your Kids
- How Sharing Funny Stories about Kids Can Be Hurtful
- 3 Reasons Your Child Doesn’t Have to Hug Everyone
- Kids’ Complaints Aren’t Petty… At Least to Them
- 3 Ways We Unintentionally Disrespect Our Kids
How do you respond when adults tease your child? How often do the adults in your kids’ life tease them? When do you let it be, and when do you step in?
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