Saturday, March 20, 2010

Are We Bullying When We Tease Our Children?

I had an epiphany the other day as I was at an adoption course. We watched a video that was made up of just words from the perspective of a child who was in government care, asking why we should expect them to trust when they’ve gone through so many negative experiences (and these stretched from neglect, to physical harm, to being abused by an older child in the home).

One of the things that was mentioned in the video was how the child talking started bullying other kids because it was a defence mechanism to prevent him from being bullied…that he felt that showing power was how to ensure they didn’t become the victim…and how he eventually  learned to look down in disgust at those who were weak.

That got me thinking: as parents, who hold such immense power in a child’s life and so much ability to help or hinder, are we unknowingly doing damage when we “tease” our children? My dad is a bugger…as in, he’d like to bug and tease…it was one way to show love. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve inherited this trait. Growing up, my dad was never vindictive in his teasing. I mean sure, I was freaking out when he’d hold a favoured stuffed animal out the window as we drove down the highway, fearing he’d let go and I’d never see it again (which as I type that does sound a little WTF). But I was never put down verbally or the butt of vicious jokes.

Still though…as parents, our role is to build up our children. It’s one thing to play with them, but another when our intent is to annoy or frustrate them. Worse, by doing so, are we really just masking bullying with a different term: showing a weaker, defenceless person that we ultimately have control over them?

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