Children’s teasing is an ‘essential’ part of growing up, expert says

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According to an American psychologist children’s teasing is an ‘essential’ part of growing up and should not be seen as a form of bullying.

Dr. Erin Heerey, a psychologist at Bangor University in North Wales, said giving each other nicknames and gentle teasing is an “essential part of life” and children should not be banned from teasing each other in the playground.

Dr. Heerey believes it is important that parents and teachers do not confuse this with bullying and she says if nicknames are nice and everyone’s having fun, that is fine and it plays a large part in development and learning to interact with other people.

Dr. Heerey says sometimes with young children there is always a chance that someone can get upset as very young children are not always aware that teasing can be hurtful but playground nicknames such as “four-eyes”, “carrot-top”, “pizza-face” and “stinky” can be good for children, as the use of insults at a young age improves social skills and helps children develop a sense of humour and play fighting gives children the opportunity to distinguish between real and pretend violence.

Dr. Heerey suggests that personal nicknames such as “lurch”, “shorty” or “chubs” could make children more popular in the long run and if everybody’s smiling there’s no reason to step in and stop it as the children are learning about social norms and how to interact with each other.

Dr. Heerey says teasing helps children to discover how to use their bodies, voices and faces to communicate nuances of meaning and it takes a while for children to become proficient.

Dr. Heerey has recently conducted research into the role that teasing plays in U.S. college fraternities which found older students mocked newcomers with crude nicknames about drunkenness and other failings in a way that encouraged them to change their behaviour and helped group bonding.

The study involving Dacher Keltner of California University found that these “playful humiliations” led to people becoming better friends and when the researchers revisited the group two years later, students who had been the butt of jokes were in leadership positions and playing the same role of passing on social norms.

Dr. Heerey says teasing is absolutely essential in building teams and allows people to get along and build better relationships with one another.


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