LGBT, Gay, Writing, Poetry, Journal, Snark

Over the last few months I have been pondering the issue of bullying and what it is and isn’t. I think the sticking point for some parents comes with the phrase “boys will be boys”. Friends tease each other all the time. With teens, it can sometimes get a bit vicious. Parents are remembering their own childhoods and their interactions with friends. Good natured teasing is not the same as outright bullying.

Just to make sure my understanding of the two words and concepts wasn’t completely off, I looked them up online in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and confirmed that the two words are actually meaning something different from each other. It was enlightening. I think many people confuse the two concepts. Teasing can be good natured, bullying is never without an element of negative impact.

tease vt \ˈtēz\
teased, teas·ing
Definition of TEASE

1a : to disentangle and lay parallel by combing or carding
b : teasel

2: to tear in pieces; especially : to shred (a tissue or specimen) for microscopic examination

3a : to disturb or annoy by persistent irritating or provoking especially in a petty or mischievous way
b : to annoy with petty persistent requests : pester; also : to obtain by repeated coaxing
c : to persuade to acquiesce especially by persistent small efforts : coax
d : to manipulate or influence as if by teasing
e : to make fun of : kid

4: to comb (hair) by taking hold of a strand and pushing the short hairs toward the scalp with the comb

5: to tantalize especially by arousing desire or curiosity often without intending to satisfy it

Related to TEASE

Synonyms: chaff, jive, joke, josh, kid, rally, razz, rib, ride, roast, goof on [slang], take the mickey out of [British], make game of, pick on

bul·lied, bul·ly·ing
Definition of BULLY

transitive verb
: to treat abusively
: to affect by means of force or coercion
intransitive verb
: to use browbeating language or behavior : bluster

Related to BULLY

Synonyms: brutalize, abuse, ill-treat, ill-use, kick around, maltreat, manhandle, mess over [slang], mishandle, mistreat, misuse

Teasing for my purpose of discussion falls much differently than bullying. Look at 3a-e and 5 for the definitions of tease. Then look at the related words. Now look at bully 1 and 2. Now the related words. None of the related words cross into the other sets. Tease and bully are not synonyms for each other. Yet, that line can be crossed. Teasing can become bullying with just a tonal inflection. Word choices become crucial to determining intention. Relationships also determine whether an action is bullying or teasing.

Friends tease each other a lot. It is a function of bonding and shared experience. It is nearly always good natured and without serious intent to cause harm to another. Sometimes tempers may flare if the teasing hits a vulnerable point or if carried too far. The bonds of friendship usually survive teasing.

Bullying has no intention other than to dominate and to cause pain. It is most often aimed at those perceived as vulnerable and different. Bullying raises a false self-esteem on the part of the person doing the bullying. They feel superior to the victim without realizing that they are creating a flaw within themselves. Some bully to hide the differences they have themselves, drawing attention to another. Some bully to inflict pain that they have over some issue onto another. Still others participate in bullying as an attempt to not be bullied themselves.

Teasing can become out of control and swiftly become bullying. Friendships can shatter over it and lead directly to malicious application. The line between blurs and is lost. Adults often forget that teens and children don’t understand restraint or impulse control due to lack of experience. The experiences of the adults is faded with age and changed perception of memory. Adults will see teasing and think nothing of it. As it rises to the level of bullying, they miss the change of context and assume it is still teasing.

The boys will be boys excuse has limits. It is one thing to allow a certain amount of teasing within established relationships. It is not teasing when the recipient has no relationship such as friendship or close association. That is more likely to be bullying. Adults need to watch more closely and intervene as necessary. The aggressive nature of bullying is obvious.

Due to the nature of bullying, the victim doesn’t really know how to make it stop. When people they trust do nothing to stop it or make it clear that it is not acceptable, these victims often are harmed even more. When you don’t think anyone cares enough to help you, what is the point of trying to help yourself. Not everyone has the strength or will to overcome something so insidious. Self-esteem plummets and self-doubt rises. Depression, despair, anger, fear and other negative emotions and thoughts start to become dominate within the victim.

Children and teens feel saying something about their situation is a sign of weakness. Usually there are threats of worse bullying and retaliation if they speak up about what they are enduring. Adults will sometimes address a situation and then falsely conclude it is dealt with. Then the bullying escalates once attention of the adult is turned away. Parents are often less than understanding about the level of anguish their child is going through. Especially if the child becomes withdrawn and uncommunicative about what is happening.

It does no harm to inquire about what is going on when you encounter a situation that seems off. If you witness bullying, as an adult, you have an obligation to intervene and find out. If it is teasing, they will let you know it easily enough. If it is actually bullying, you may be that person’s only chance of relief. If you think that it is bullying, find out who the responsible adults are and inform them of the situation. Convince them that the situation has to be dealt with. Check back to make sure that it is actually being addressed, if possible. Take the time, make the effort.


Comments on: "The Fine Line Between Teasing and Bullying" (10)

  1. […] Over the last few months I have been pondering the issue of bullying and what it is and isn't. I think the sticking point for some parents comes with the phrase "boys will be boys". Friends tease each other all the time. With teens, it can sometimes get a bit vicious. Parents are remembering their own childhoods and their interactions with friends. Good natured teasing is not the same as outright bullying. Just to make sure my understanding of th … Read More […]

  2. “If you witness bullying, as an adult, you have an obligation to intervene and find out.”

    Hmm . . . I don’t think that ALL adults have an “obligation” to intervene.

    Parents, teachers, principals, ministers, neighbors may have an ethical, moral, or legal obligation to look out for kids they know or for kids entrusted to their care.

    But that obligation does NOT automatically extend to every adult who happens upon a potential situation involving bullying or teasing.

    Parents need to look out for their kids, talk to their kids, and supervise their kids ~ whether their kids are bullies or victims.

    • So, you would not break up a fight that is clearly unequal and obviously bullying? We all have that obligation. If you see a child being harassed with derogatory language, you would not let them know it is not appropriate under any circumstances? You would not check on the welfare of that child? How is it NOT the responsibility of an adult witnessing this not to intervene? This doesn’t make sense to me. At the least, very least, we have the obligation to go to someone with authority to investigate. If it is nothing, then there is no harm. If it is bullying, you are saving a child or teen from harm. To do nothing is to continue a form of abuse that could be stopped. It may be that you are willing to allow that possibility, but I do not understand that attitude at all. Not with kids choosing to end their lives rather than endure it any longer.

    • If you saw a woman being physically abused by her man, would you ignore it? If you saw a child being abused by it’s parent(s), would you ignore it? If you saw a disabled person being abused, would you ignore it? If you saw a senior citizen being abused, would you ignore it?
      Everyone who purposely causes another person harm is, in essence, a bully. If you wouldn’t ignore any or all of these situations I mentioned, why on earth would you ignore a child being abused by another child or children? People are people, regardless of their age, and EVERY person deserves the right to be protected in the face of harm. Obviously you have no children because, if you do or will, you better pray that noone ignores them being bullied because it could literally mean the difference between life and death…

  3. This isn’t about what I would or would not do.

    You made a universal statement that ALL adults have an obligation to look out for kids.

    I challenged your statement and stand by what I said.

    Just because someone chooses to have kids doesn’t impose an obligation on ALL other adults to watch out for them.

    • Yes, they do. For the reasons I stated. It is the right thing to do. It is a moral and ethical thing to do. That creates the obligation regardless of who had the kids. Anyone that chooses to ignore situations like this is choosing to contribute to the harm of a child. We are clearly not going to agree on this. I can now only encourage people to carefully examine why they would not intervene. I still believe every adult has the obligation to prevent bullying when directly confronted with it. There are some things that are truly universal and this is one of them.

      Sidenote: I am certainly not trying to be rude, insulting or anything negative toward you personally. If it appears that way, it is only me not finding the right words.

  4. You say: “Anyone that chooses to ignore situations like this is choosing to contribute to the harm of a child.”

    A parallel statement would be: Anyone who chooses to eat meat is choosing to contribute to the UNNECESSARY suffering of animals and the environmental destruction and devastation wrought by factory farms.

    In my view of the world, EVERYONE should become a vegetarian. I believe that eating meat is a disgusting, unhealthy habit ~ and also morally and ethically wrong.

    Parents who feed their kids beef, chicken and pork are filling their offspring up with anti-biotics, growth hormones, and other nasty stuff. From my perspective, it’s a form of child abuse and neglect ~ parents should educate themselves about the harm they are doing to their children (and animals) everytime they CHOOSE to serve meat.

    But just because I BELIEVE that doesn’t mean that everyone else has to look at the world the same way that I do, or that I can stand up and tell them that they ALL have an “obligation” to stop eating meat because “I say so.”

    Too many parents bring kids into the world, expecting someone else (the government, the schools, the neighbors) to raise them, educate them, and look out for them. IMHO, that reliance on paternalism has to stop.

    Raising children requires time, energy, money, an even temperament, and common sense ~ sadly, many parents are lacking in one, or all, of these areas.

    People need to think long and hard about whether to bring children into a world that is already bulging at the seams.

  5. Pms Advenger said:

    Don’t Feed the TroLL

  6. “Application of the term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often used as an ad hominem strategy to discredit an opposing position by attacking its proponent.” Wikipedia.

    Subjectively labeling someone with a different viewpoint as a “troll” (or a misanthrope) is akin to what bullies do when they feel threatened by opposing views held by others.

    When bullies BELIEVE the views and actions of others are “morally repugnant,” they resort to ad hominem attacks on the PERSON rather than civilly discussing the difference of opinion.

    They round up their posse and collectively tease, taunt, ridicule, finger point, hurl epithets, and apply JUDGMENTAL LABELS.

    Be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Gandhi

  7. […] recent gay teen suicides in this blog post. I then wrote two more blogs on bullying here and here . I also wrote about how conservative christian organizations were claiming we are becoming […]

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