goodManners: Targeting teasing How to help children cope with and avoid teasing

At a recent outdoor press conference, President George W. Bush teased a Los Angeles Times reporter for wearing “shades” while asking him a question.

President Bush later learned that the reporter was wearing the sunglasses because of a serious eye disease. He later called the reporter to apologize for the incident. The reporter handled the teasing and the apology extremely graciously, and made light of the whole episode.

This situation proves that teasing can be tricky business even for adults. One could argue that teasing is not always bad, sometimes it can be quite endearing – when it genuinely displays a true affection for the other person and causes everyone to smile, including the person being teased.

On the other hand, hurtful teasing causes the person being teased to feel angry, sad or embarrassed.

Teasing is sometimes considered a rite of passage in childhood. Teaching children to understand the difference between heartwarming teasing, and potentially hurtful teasing can be challenging. There are no black and white etiquette rules, only some guidelines to consider while teaching your child about this topic.

Consideration for others

Displaying consideration for others is a main principle in etiquette and any social situation. Teaching children to understand that words are extremely powerful and that when used in a negative or demeaning manner can be devastating to the recipient.

Unfortunately, sometimes hurtful teasing does occur. Children should remember how it felt to be teased and develop more empathy for those who are hurtfully teased. Hopefully this will also remind them to refrain from potentially harmful teasing.

Treat others…

Children need to understand that everyone wants to feel valued and be treated with respect.  This is a “two-way street,” and there are consequences for the rude teaser and the victim. If a child always remembers to treat other people the way she wants to be treated than fewer teasing episodes will occur.

Learning and coping


One often teases for attention, to imitate behavior they may have witnessed or perhaps to feel superior.  If your child hurtfully teases someone, spend some time talking with him about it and allow your child an opportunity to develop a plan to help rectify the situation (i.e. a verbal or written, heartfelt apology). It’s important for children to learn from their mistakes and in the case of a “teaser”; there are also consequences (i.e. an apology) because this type of behavior is not acceptable.

Being the “victim” of teasing is often hard for children. There are several coping strategies you can teach your child depending on their age and the situation: ignore it, use humor, or respond to the tease with a complement.

A child should not respond back to the teaser with rudeness. When the teasing is truly harassment children should feel comfortable asking for assistance from their parents, teachers or other caregivers. 


Q: What should you do if you are verbally told to save a date for an event (wedding for example) but do not receive an invitation? Do you assume the number of folks invited changed and you could not be invited (understandable)? Or do you contact the person in case it was a mistake to avoid hard feelings for not showing up?

- Susan in Annandale, NJ

A: As a rule of thumb if you receive a formal “save the date” card from the host of the event you are as good as invited to the affair. A verbal “save the date” from the host should adhere to the same guideline. If you have not received an invitation in the mail after adequate time has been allowed (usually 4 weeks before the event) then there is nothing wrong with calling the host. You could subtly ask how all the planning for the event is going and casually say it sounds like a wonderful event and was wondering if the invitations had been sent out. If so, you could mention that you did not receive yours yet.  If you feel awkward asking the host about the missing invitation than simple honesty may be the best strategy for you. You could say, “I feel awkward mentioning this, but I have not yet received an invitation to the wedding.”