Teasing is common during childhood. Very common. But, at what point does teasing turn into taunting? Or as kids turn into adolescents, flirting turn into sexual bullying?
In this post, I will try to ferret out the differences and help you educate yourselves and your children on the differences.
Teasing, like I said, is a normal part of life. It is not meant to hurt, involves an even exchange between two or more people,and is meant to generate laughter. It is a type of verbal sparing that is innocent in nature and typically discontinued when one of the people involved shows any amount of discomfort with the teasing.
More than anything else, it is playful, good-natured “ribbing”.
Taunting, however, is something quite different.
Taunting is a typical way in which a bully “attacks” their victim. It has one purpose – to hurt the “victim”. It is one-sided, sinister, and meant to diminish the other person. Taunting typically increases when the “victim” becomes upset.
There is no playfulness in taunting – and no way to “misconstrue” the intent.
Taunting is something a bully does!
As children become adolescents, teasing between girls and boys can change to flirting. And sometimes, with a bully, so-called flirting is really sexual bullying. So how can you tell the difference?
Like teasing, flirting is normal. It is meant to be fun, playful and complimentary. Both parties should feel comfortable with the flirting, and when someone doesn’t, it is to be discontinued.
Sexual bullying takes flirting into the realm of harm and control. There is an imbalance of power in a sexual bullying exchange. This behavior violates boundaries, is degrading, and is intended to elicit fear. Like taunting, it makes the victim feel degraded and is typically continued and intensifies when the “victim” shows discomfort.
It is bullying.
Hopefully, this clears up the differences. It is really important that both kids and adults learn the differences in order to learn to speak out against some of the more subtle forms of bullying.