What to do when your child is getting teased

May 2, 2007 — 10 Comments

Teasing: The stress

I came home from my second job tonight to learn that my eight-year-old daughter has been keeping something from us.

She’s getting teased.

Thankfully it only started yesterday. But that’s two days now she’s had to endure it. I feel bad for the kid–kind of. Because tonight, after some discussion and role-playing, I think we gave her some tools that should help.

Now I kind of feel sorry for those who are going to tease her.

And actually I’m thankful this happened because the whole experience could really set a firm cornerstone in her personal development.

Here’s the story. A couple of days ago, Emma told a friend that she liked a boy. Now, obviously, I wasn’t there so I didn’t hear the context, but from what I know of “the boy,”— heck, I like him too.

He’s even been over to our house a couple of times. He’s nice, he’s funny, he’s polite and he’s fun. He might even be a little cute. Bottom line: he’s a good kid, and I’m glad that he and Emma are friends.

Anyway, so now kids are making kissy faces, singing “Emma loves J_____”, drawing hearts on her back with their fingers and whispering his name in her ear.

This morning, in the silence following the pledge of allegiance, some boy shouts out, “EMMA LOVES J_____!” for the whole elementary school to hear. ‘Course, it’s all over after that. Kids are joking and whispering in the halls. Poking fun at the boy. The way Emma tells it, now everybody, 1-4 is totally whipped up.

And Emma’s completely humiliated.

Apparently it got so bad that Emma’s teacher had to lecture the class about the how inappropriate all this is.

Understandably, Emma hasn’t had a great last two days.

Then tonight—we had to put our dog to sleep.

Teasing: the shame

And to top it all off she’s had trouble telling us about the teasing. I think she even started doubting herself and her feelings. Were they bad feelings? Did she do or think something wrong?

In the past, as parents, we’ve joked around the topic of “boys.” Nothing big (in my mind), but apparently big enough for Emma to cause her to hesitate.

Not good.

Talk about a kid under stress.

Teasing: getting to the truth

After she let it all out to her mom, Lisa did a smart thing. In order to get a clear picture, she asked Emma (as non-threateningly, non-judgmentally as she could) about her feelings. Did she want to hold hands? Kiss?

The answer?

“No. I just like him. You know—he’s funny.”

(WHEW! Right all you dads? You know what I’m talking about.)

Teasing: the answer (at least in this case)

Great, fine—so now about this teasing. They turned to me.

“Dad,” they asked. “What can Emma do or say to make the other kids stop teasing?”

To be honest, nothing really great came to mind. I had to think for a good while. Because really, I don’t think I’ve ever thought too much about an effective countermeasure. You can try to ignore it and hope it blows over. You could tell them to “shut-up” or “grow-up” but let’s be honest—shyah . . .like that’s gonna work!

Children are, well—childish. They’re going to keep on as long as it’s interesting and fun. So I started thinking—what was so fun about it?

Well, it’s about something mysterious: “Young Love.” Something they really have no idea about but want to appear to have the upper hand in. And then it hit me. Emma had to face it head on—without the shame, or guilt or fear that is assumed to be there.

“Emma,” I said. “These kids are teasing you because they don’t know something, and that ‘something’ is a little bit scary to them. But one of the coolest things in the world is a kid (especially a young girl) with unshakable confidence. So what if you just tell them that ‘Yes, you like J___ . So what?’ What would happen?”

“Well, I did say ‘So . . .’ once to a boy that was teasing me.” She said with the hint of a smile.

. . .teasers are like dogs that chase you because you’re running.

“What happened.”

“He just stopped. He didn’t know what to say.”

“That’s right,” I said, “because teasers are like dogs that chase you because you’re running. Or better yet, like a dog that barks but backs up at while he’s doing it.”

Then Lisa came up with the best comeback yet.

“Next time a boy says, ‘Emma Loves J____,’ look him square in the face and say, ‘That’s right. I love a lot of people. And you’d better watch out because you might be next.’”

I wish you could have seen the smile spread across her face. I wish you could have heard her giggling. I hope someday you can feel the relief and joy I felt when Emma said to me, as she was brushing her teeth, “I wish I would have told you guys sooner.”

Chris Wondra


10 responses to What to do when your child is getting teased

  1. Aww. Well, it sounds like Emma got some great advice. I’ve never understood why kids tease kids? I’m glad, it sounds, that your daughter has confidence, and that you as parents are doing what you can to ensure her confidence stays strong. That’s neat! : )

    Thanks Kenz,

    Hope all is going well with you.


  2. Whew! Glad that turned out well. You hear on the news about vicious bullying that goes on in the background at schools that never sees the light of day and you gotta wonder…If you can survive childhood, adulthood is cake!

    “If you can survive childhood . . .” You got that right cityteacher. Thanks for the comment. I teach middle school and am constantly amazed at how mean spirited some kids are. It’s like they have absolutely no empathy.


  3. I love your story. Some very good lessons learned by you and your daughter. This is a lesson which she will carry for the rest of her life! Hats off to both of you!

    Thanks Mark,

    Parenting is an interesting journey. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the landscape changes.


  4. Chris,

    That is a cool story…

    I am preparing a hard hitting bullying piece. I just learned that several of the boys (the popular hockey players) in the neighborhood are calling the smart nerdy band geek – who they used to be freinds with – a “gay homo” and hitting him in the back of the head during the bus ride to school. The victim is a great kid and feel bad for him… there are so many details to this I can’t go into…
    But I remember this same stuff happening in Jr. High and it still goes on… the same pattern… generation after generation… his parents are worried about him… they think he might be suicidal… we lost 3 to suicide in prior lake savage two years ago… but the strangest thing about it… I know the boys abusing him… and they’ve always been such great kids… what the hell goes wrong with these boys? WTF!?

    Hey Steve,


    I’m looking forward to your perspective. I get so angry when I hear examples like the one you just mentioned. I can’t help it. Somebody needs to get in these kids faces and let them have it. It’s amazing when you get them one on one how easy it is to make them cry. Real tough guys.

    Here’s what I think. It’s all fear based. Bullies are afraid of something and by picking on someone, they think they are deflecting that fear away. Maybe if everybody’s paying attention to the nerd nobody will see the flaws that I have. It’s like, I know how screwed up I am–but at least I’m better than that guy, I’d better make sure others know that.

    And until there is a shift in consciousness resulting in a major boost of confidence and self assuredness, it never stops. Almost every day I hear talk from adults, men and women that puts down, makes fun, or criticizes other adults.

    Maybe it’s the way a person does or does not do his job, the shape he’s in or how he keeps his yard or garden. Whatever it is, the talk seems to serve one common purpose–to deflect attention away from the speaker, point out another’s flaws or shortcomings.

    Confident, self-assured people rarely cut and dig. They’re not afraid of people or another’s influence. They tell the truth in order to help.

    Somebody needs to get in these boys faces–and they need to get in the parent’s faces as well–and find out what good they think can come this type of behavior.

    Sorry Steve, you know these boys. That person might just be you.


  5. Thanks for participating in the Carnival of Family Life this week. Your post is a great contribution to the Carnival!

  6. Good post and good advice for deflecting teasing. My kids learn at home and we’ve noticed that there’s more teasing and bullying in schooled kids than homeschooled kids. I can’t think of a single one of their homeschooled friends who tease, but there are one or two schooled ones who pick on them when our families get together. Why this is, I don’t know. Maybe the mob mentality? The pressure of school? Or perhaps it’s because the schooled kids are separated from their families all day? Kind of a Lord of the Flies mentality, maybe. Maybe it’s because of the emphasis on competition at school, while most homeschoolers are more into cooperation, at least we are. I think the kids get it from popular culture and from their parents. The characters on TV shows and in movies have gotten meaner. They’re the role models for a lot of kids, while parents and older kids are more likely to be the role models for homeschooled kids. Interestingly, it’s not because we’re religious. We’re secular homeschoolers, actually unschoolers, while the kids who tease my kids are from Christian homes.

    Hi Lill,

    Thanks for your comment and observations (sorry it’s taken me so long to respond). I don’t think labels (Christians) make a hoot of difference. As a teacher and a dad I have some pretty strong feelings about the role of parents today–and unfortunately have seen the results of what I call the “lazy parent” in my classroom. I think parents need to play a bigger roll today.

    Thanks for the visit and your insightful comment!


  7. I love parents who take a positive and proactive role and approach with their kids. Great share. The best ammunition we can give them is kindness and difusing situations. Great job dad!

    Here via the Carnival of Family Life 🙂

    Thanks Holly. Most of the time we just feel like we’re making it up as we go along. Sometimes things work. Sometimes they don’t.

    Thanks for the comment!


  8. Hi Mr. Wondra. I’m from your first block L.A. Class.
    You see, this entry made me think a lot. I don’t know you aside from the fact that you are my Language Arts teacher. But reading that (and many other things on your website, for that matter) kind of showed me who you are away from school. Your a loving and caring father, a husband, teacher, and a really good writer. Your entries are very interesting to read, and easy to relate to. (Well a few of them, anyway. I guess it depends on your age and the entry) But seeing as this one is about your daughter, I can relate to it. I’ve gone through things like that, but never had that kind of support. That advice was really good, and has now given your daughter the confidence to overcome something somewhat scary to her. I have to admit, I never expected that, but that’s probably because I don’t know you aside from school. But that’s beside the point. The point is, I think your work is very interesting, and I like the fact that your students can look at your webpage and say “You know what, Mr. Wondra is a cool guy”. They probably won’t think of you as just some teacher. They will probably feel that they know you a bit better as a person. Well, that’s how i feel anyway.


    Thanks Crystal.

    That might have been the most thoughtful comment anyone has ever left here. And it made me feel great!

    Mr. Wondra

  9. Mr. Wondra,

    I experienced a lot of teasing throughout my 6th grade year which made me become very introverted and severely depressed that year. This carries on to now, so I’m glad you helped your daughter with this! It’s very humiliating and it feels as if everyone hates you, and that’s not something that one should feel; my parents were never too supportive with it emotionally/mentally, they just got quite mad and phoned the principal of the school, who gave me a lecture instead of any real help. The principal would preach to me on how you should “view the cup half full or half empty”, so, I’m supposed to look at the good side of teasing? Sometimes the school staff can be nonsupporting too, which makes me glad I’m away from that school. Reading your blog and how you helped your daughter kind of made me wish my parents did something like that with me! This is also the precise reason I am very disclosed about opening any romantic feelings towards any individual(s) of the opposite gender if, for any reason, it had to occur. I think I’ll open up one day, and I look forward to that day. I, as Crystal said, am one of the people who just thought you were my Language Arts teacher and that’s that, with the side thought of “this will help me learn how to write better.” But, one morning, I think I was looking for the staff directory and I typed your full name, “Chris Wondra”, in Google, and I found your blog! It seems the outcasts in society usually get casted out from schools. I don’t think I’m EXACTLY that anymore but I can’t help but not fitting in. I really think this was a GREAT exercise with your daughter. Like the last sentence said, “I wish I had told you guys sooner”, it’s great for children to have trust in their parents and be able to go to them for help. This is actually one of the greatest examples of parenthood I’ve ever seen, it may seem like you didn’t do a tremendous amount of effort, but, you didn’t completely do it for her, and that can build character and strength. Many parents nowadays just blow it off, and that’s not how you do it. I can really tell your kids will grow up to be great at this rate with your great parenting skills. You’re also a great writer, kept me interested the whole way through! I can write a lot and have good grammar/spelling but I can never keep it interesting, haha.

    Well, anyways, a bit off topic. I think I’ll end this comment here.

    This was to a great father :-),

    Have a good day!

    ~Sam Sizer

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