In Defense of Teasing – How To Take A Joke & Give As Good As You Get

Teasing is a double edged sword- by definition, it can either be playful razzing or harsh, bullying ridicule.  A little needling is an essential social tool, and is part of every healthy relationship.  When abused or overdone,teasing is a malicious form of social cruelty – applied correctly, it serves many positive functions, including: conveying acceptable group standards, managing conflict, and showing affection.

A child’s disposition and sensitivity has as much to do with the interpretation of teasing as the intent of provocateur. Not all jibes are hurtful personal attacks. Kids with a delicate nature can benefit greatly by learning to distinguish between a joke and an insult, and how to deal with both.


  • Don’t Tease A Stranger.  Or anyone you don’t know very well.
  • Avoid Eye Poking.  Never joke about sensitive issues, like their appearance (weight, complexion, teeth, etc), their family, or religion.  And if you accidental touch a nerve, back off and don’t touch it again.
  • Know When To Quit.  One or two playful pokes is plenty.  3 is annoying.  More is harassment.
  • Don’t Hurt Feelings. It seems obvious, but if the receiver seems distressed, they don’t think its funny.  Don’t tease anyone who doesn’t tease back.


  • Consider The Source. If its coming from a loved one or friend, always give them the benefit of the doubt, even if they do push a hot-button.
  • Don’t Let It Get To You. Be Cool. I can guarantee this- if you over react, get angry,or hostile, you will get teased 1,000 times more. If you smile and shrug and play it off as no big deal, you’ll be seen as a good sport.
  • Give Back.  Someone jokes with you,they’ve opened the door. It’s Okay to return the favor, but remember,don’t be insulting or mean. You don’t want to create or escalate a conflict, you want to participate in a game.

Kids are universally teased about certain things. Coaching them how to handle these situations when they arise is easy enough with the use of preparation, role-playing and mental rehearsal.

The keys are to stay calm (no one thinks clearly when they’re upset), and turn the attention back on the other person. Keep it brief. Don’t argue or stoop to insults.  After you’ve scored your point, you’re done (even if the other person isn’t)… just smile, say “whatever” and move on.

Lots of kids don’t possess the verbal agility to parry and thrust.  Don’t stress. Standing silent and maintaining your dignity is a perfectly good answer.

“Amy has a boyfriend, Amy has a boyfriend”
Responses: “You sound jealous.  Are you lonesome?”  “I have lots of friends.  You should try to make some”

“You’re the worst player on the team!”
Responses: “Congratulations.  I didn’t know you were promoted from MVP to head coach”  “Thanks for pointing that out, Captain Obvious”

Hey short-stuff.  How’s the weather down there?”
Responses:  “Good.  Are you getting enough oxygen up there?”  “The weather’s fine but the company could be better”

Remember, there’s a big distinction between joking around and demeaning persecution.

Be Excellent!

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