In my practice I frequently hear teens refer to the kids who bother or annoy them as bullies. I think schools do a fairly good job on getting the word out about who bullies are and how to stand up to them, but I’m not sure they differentiate between the other type of teasing teens experience which is more normative and how to respond to that. The way that your teen responds to teasing will determine how often they get teased. If you’re like most well intentioned parents, you listen to your son or daughters concern about their friendship issues and give them advice such as to “ignore them”, “walk away”, or “tell a teacher”. Unfortunately this advice does not typically work. It can make the teen look weak and subject them to further teasing in the future. The key is to not give the teaser the reaction that they are looking for. Less skilled teens may respond defensively or geared up for a fight. Others may not respond at all, or walk away giving the teaser power. Research investigating what socially skilled teens do reveals that a short comeback that conveys indifference actually decreases future teasing. A comeback is defined as a quick reply to a critical remark. Here are the steps to respond to verbal teasing:
Act like what the person said didn’t bother you and was kind of lame or stupid
Give a brief comeback that shows your indifference
Walk away after a few verbal comebacks
Use non-verbals such as rolling eyes, shrugging shoulders, shaking head in disbelief
Some examples of short comebacks that are effective include:
And your point is?
And why do I care?
Am I supposed to care?
Is that supposed to be funny?
Tell me when you get to the funny part?
Teens often need to practice this for it to come off effectively. Parents can help by role playing situations with their teen so they are ready with their comeback when the teasing hits. Caution them to not engage in any insults or the teasing will likely escalate to a fight. Effective use of the comeback builds confidence and decreases future teasing. The key is boredom and indifference.
Dr. Amy Ford