Coping With Put-downs

Teasing from classmates can bruise young egos. Here's what to do to help your child through tough times on the playground.
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Frank Heckers

Q: My 7-year-old daughter is a tomboy, and her classmates tease her about having short hair. How can I help her deal with their nasty taunts and teasing?

A: "When your child tells you about it, try not to react with an empty reassurance like 'Don't pay any attention to them. They're just jealous,'" says Mary Ann Shaw, Ed.D., Dallas-based author of Your Anxious Child. "That type of talk doesn't wash with most kids. Instead, try to get a sense of how your child is thinking about this by asking her, 'How did it make you feel when they said that?' and 'Why do you suppose they said that?'"

Your child may be so uncomfortable with her classmates' teasing that she wants to make changes in her appearance that will help her fit in, such as growing her hair longer. "In that case, you can offer her support with her decision," says Dr. Shaw.

If she doesn't want to change, then teach her the best ways to nip teasing in the bud: by ignoring it and by agreeing with it. "Most teasers are looking for a reaction," explains Dr. Shaw. "If you ignore them or agree with them ['Yes, I know my hair is short'], it won't be fun for them anymore, and they'll stop doing it. If neither approach works, consider going for the big gun: the teacher. It may take a teacher's intervention to break up a clique."

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