The Differences Between Bullying and Teasing

While many private schools and institutions have seen success at ending bullying, public education continues to struggle. According to the National Center for Education Statistics 2015 report, over one in five students reported being bullied at school. Yet, many public schools still lack bullying awareness programs.

The absence of anti-bullying education can be due to a variety of reasons, such as shortage of funding for anti-bullying programs, lack of community support, and other considerations. Some people may even brush bullying off as simple teasing. But there is a key difference which sets bullying and teasing apart.

Bullying Is Different From Teasing Due To Intention

Defining the difference between bullying and teasing all comes down to intention. When it comes to bullying behaviors, the intention is to hurt the target. Teasing is not meant to hurt and is instead a form of communication between friends and types of close relationships.

These definitions can be a little vague. To help eliminate any confusion, there are some clear ways you and your children can identify when someone is teasing or bullying.

How To Identify Teasing

There are a variety of situations and ways in which teasing is an appropriate form of communication. As you read through the teasing identifiers, keep in mind that the feelings of the target are the most important tool in defining when teasing turns to bullying.

A close relationship exists - A key thing for children and teens to understand is that teasing should only be done between friends and other close relationships. Otherwise, it is easy for the target of their teasing to misinterpret the action as bullying.

Everyone is teased equally - Many times, friends will tease one another as a form of communication. This type of light, teasing communication can help friends connect and share values when done correctly.

Teasing stops when requested - Teasing can go too far, even among those who know each other well. A hallmark of teasing is that when the target of the teasing asks the other person to stop, the request is respected. Often, bullies will not stop their behaviors when asked.

No one thing is repeatedly addressed - Continued teasing on the same subject can make the target of the teasing feel defensive and hurt. Teasing should not repeatedly pick at any one topic.

How To Identify Bullying

When it comes to bullying, there is generally an established pattern of behavior which makes identifying bullying behaviors easy.

The bully establishes a pattern of behavior - Bullies tend to stick to a set pattern of behaviors. Some bullies rely on verbal bullying tactics, while others will continually physically intimidate and verbally attack their targets. While these patterns can change and escalate, the victim of the bullying can usually pinpoint a clear pattern of their bully’s behavior.

Bullying target(s) are negatively impacted - As was said earlier, the intention is vital in defining teasing and bullying. If the intention is to harm and the target(s) are negatively impacted, then the behavior can be identified as bullying.

A power imbalance is created between bully and target - Bullies create a negative power imbalance between themselves and their target. Children and teens who identify a sense of helplessness and powerlessness to stop a person’s negative behaviors are clearly being bullied.

Teens who have fallen into bullying habits may require therapeutic help to undo their bullying habits. Parents who identify bullying behaviors in their teens should do their best to address the bullying while their teens are not set in their ways.

Ending Bullying Takes Everyone’s Help

Researchers have determined that there are strong connections between bullying and teen suicidal ideation, as well as depression, substance abuse, and violent behavior. Clearly, this means that putting a stop to bullying takes much more than telling the bullied child to grow a thicker skin.

Instead of just saying ineffective platitudes, there are ways in which children, teens, and adults can work together to end bullying.

How Children And Teens Can Stop Bullying

Keep the situation from escalating - Some bullies use physical intimidation and violence. If your child or teen is being bullied by a volatile troubled teen, help them develop strategies to defuse the situation. Some tactics which may help are:

  • Stick close with friends, as some bullies will avoid acting out violently in front of witnesses.
  • If your child sees someone being bullied who is alone, encourage them to invite the target into their friend group.
  • If your child is not the target, they can defuse the situation by distracting the bully. This distraction can be as simple as asking them a question.

Avoid encouraging a bully - Many bullies enjoy verbally abusing their targets around others, usually under the guise of “joking” but with the intention of hurting the target. Encourage your children not to laugh at mean-spirited jokes which make fun of others.

Inform an adult about bullying - Whether your child is the target of bullying or sees someone bullied, encourage them to report it to an adult they trust. Some children and teens may be embarrassed to tell their parents about bullying, so be sure they know it is okay to tell whoever they feel most comfortable confiding in.

Ways Parents And Other Adults Can Put An End To Bullying

Listen to your children’s concerns - It can be tough to catch everything going on in your children’s lives. But often, children who are bullied will drop hints of their problems as they tell you about their day. If your child has the courage to tell you outright that they are being bullied, be sure not to dismiss their assessment of the situation.

Vote for bullying awareness measures - Every public school should have a parent-teacher association/organization. In these organizations, often measures like bullying awareness and prevention programs are voted on. Your participation and encouragement of anti-bullying measures will make it far more likely that your child’s school will be better able at ending bullying.

Coordinate with school administration - If your child is being bullied at school, working with the school’s administration and your child’s teachers is critical to protecting your student while they are at school. Teachers and administrators who are aware of a bullying issue will be better able to intervene when the bullying occurs.

Work with the bully’s parents - This step can be tough, as parents who have a bullying child often struggle to believe that their child is bullying someone. However, it can be worth bringing the bully’s parents into a meeting between you and the school administration to develop a plan to end the bullying.

Ending bullying requires everyone to be educated and participate in finding solutions. There are many other excellent resources you can use at home to help you and your family become more effective at preventing bullying. We strongly encourage you to advocate for better bullying awareness and prevention in your own community, as bullying will only be stopped if we all work together.

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