Teasing—for both kids and adults—can be a very toxic experience. Even when it seems “good natured,” playfully making fun of someone is almost always a negative experience for the victim. It should be stopped as soon as possible.
Here are some tips for dealing with teasing in the heat of the moment.
Reaffirm Your Values
Direct your group’s attention to your BE BOLD Values poster. Remind them that we accept each other, we respect each other, and we’re all in this together.
If there’s an obvious attempt to gain attention, redirect the situation very firmly and purposefully. Get the group to focus immediately on something else entirely. Get all the children engaged in a new question or activity as soon as possible.
If redirection didn’t defuse the situation completely, or it happens again, move yourself physically closer to the culprit. This sends a message that you are watching him or her, and that you’re in control of what’s happening in the group.
Set an Example
The most important thing to remember is that you, as the teacher, help set the tone for the entire group. Take extra care not to make sarcastic jabs during your time together, whether at another leader, a child, or any of the activities you’re doing together. Your positive example demonstrates how the BE BOLD Values are lived out.
You never know when you might’ve said something that could have devastated a kid. Even a minor offhand joke or “playful” comment has the potential to be a sensitive area for some kids. So make sure that you maintain an environment where everyone is accepted, and every kid feels welcome, no matter their thoughts, questions, or uncertainties.