Stop the Teasing: Tips

school bully

Light-hearted teasing between friends can be fun. It’s often a normal part of what friends do. However, there’s teasing that hurts other’s feelings. It is important to teach your child to avoid hurting other’s feelings, to stop teasing when asked and to speak up if they don’t like being teased. I cover Social Aggression in my online workshops at

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Make “no,” “don’t,” and “stop” magic words between children – Part of curbing teasing is encouraging kids to listen to others. We talk about “no,” “don’t” and “stop” as magic words. That when you hear a friend say these things, you should really be a listener and consider what they are asking you to do.
  • Teach your child how to speak up for themselves – Here is a link to my blog post on teaching kids to have an assertive voice:
  • Teach emotion language and ways to recognize emotions in others – Here is a link to my blog post on teaching children emotion language: Focus this often on reading other’s expressions and emotion language.  Point out what friends are feeling often.
  • Teach empathy – Empathy is a developing trait across the preschool and elementary school years. Part of teaching empathy is emotion language (above), and part is perspective taking. Here is a link to my blog post which includes a bit about teaching perspective taking:
  • Discipline for teasing that is hurtful – Rather than a ‘that’s what kids do’ approach, parents should address hurtful teasing as they would if their children were being aggressive. Stop the behavior, talk about feelings, give choices for behaviors and give consequences for teasing. Actively coach children to move forward in a better way.

Good parenting books include:

  • Mom, They’re Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems by Thompson
  • Easing the Teasing: Helping Your Child Cope by Freedman

Good children’s books include:

  • The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing by Berenstain
  • No More Teasing by Clark
  • Cool, Calm and Confident: A Workbook to Help Kids Learn Assertive Skills by Schab (older kids)

Calling People Names

Dear Dr. Rene,
My four-year-old son has recently started calling other people “bad”. Without any noticable provocation, he’ll emphatically say his one-and-a-half-year-old brother is bad. Or he’ll say, “mommy, you’re bad!” I find this to be upsetting, but I try not to overreact. I can’t seem to come up with a constructive response. Do you have any insight into what the positive intent might be behind these kind of statements? Any suggestions on how to respond?
Mom of two, ages one and four

Dear Kristine,
Name calling and teasing is common in the preschool years. Often children are trying to play or get the other’s attention. In this case, he seems to be testing the power of his words and looking for a reaction.

The first thing I would do is talk to him about how you don’t like to be called “bad” or how his brother feels sad to be talked to that way. At calm times, I would talk about how much people like to be called nice things and how important it is to speak in nice ways. You might, as a small response when he calls people “bad” have him find something nice to say about that person or think of a way to help them feel better. This would be a plenty big reaction.

If he seems frustrated or angry when he says this, I would start coaching him on other words to use when he is upset. Better for him to say, “I’m mad!” than to name call.
Dr. Rene