Teasing is a playful way for people to connect, as long as all parties involved know the intent. Teasing becomes bullying when one person becomes the aggressor either in hurtful words or physical acts.
Here, I will give a very embarrassing antidote about teasing that went wrong when I was little. One year my dad took me for a haircut, which was usually my mom’s domain. I am not 100% how the events occurred but my father told the man to cut my hair short and I ended up walking out looking like a little boy, super short hair with bangs. Later down the timeline I lost a front tooth which leads me to believe I was probably about 6 or 7. Now, I am quite certain my father was teasing originally when he nicknamed me “Butch the toothless boy” during this time however, he encouraged my older brother to also use this term. Even when I cried and wanted them to stop it did not. That was the line, it was teasing until my feelings were hurt, I asked for it to stop and it continued anyhow, that is when it became bullying. Thinking about it 30 years later still makes me sad and angry, so we need to be careful with our words.
Our kids today are easy to escalate to bullying from teasing and as a mother this worries me. My son has a very good friend and they tease each other equally, they playfully smack each other and say weird things I do not understand but they both know it is in good fun. Somewhere along the road however, it escalated. It’s fine now, but there were a couple of days where my son asked him to stop punching him and his friend did not. A conversation with the mom, thankfully we are friends, and it was resolved. Or at least, there’s no more punching, though they are a bit offish to each other at the moment I imagine they will figure it out.
In our current world where people who should be respected but our leaders call each other names we are setting up our kids for the same behavior. I will not sit back and watch the people in my life be bullied, and I now am confident enough so I will not be bullied.