Helping Bubba G with teasing

Bubba G is three and over the school holidays she went to vacation care at preschool with her peers and with older children from her preschool. She has had a fantastic time and there have been many positives about her playing with the older children.

One day she asked me “what does teasing mean Mummy”? So I explained what it meant, without giving the question too much thought. Then one of her teachers told me that some of the older boys had been teasing her about being small (she is three and a half, but she looks about two. However, she makes up for her lack of size with a feisty and confident personality). Her teacher said that she did not seem upset about it at the time, however, the next morning she woke up crying from a dream in which older boys had been teasing her about being small. So the incident must have upset her and she was processing it in her sleep. We co-sleep and her Daddy was able to comfort her and listen to her tears with empathy and love when she awoke from her dream.

I wasn’t prepared to deal with teasing so soon, and I did not learn any skills for standing up for myself when I was a child, so I did some research to find out how I could help Bubba G to stand up for herself, without retaliating in an unkind way (we value kindness highly and talk about being kind regularly).

I remembered a great article that I had read on Dr Laura Markham’s site called 10 Ways to Empower Your Child Against Bullying. I am not suggesting that Bubba G was being bullied, but I was looking for information to help Bubba G with teasing. I wrote a list of the phrases that are suggested in the article and discussed them with my husband. We decided together that we would teach her to say the following:

Teasing comment – “you’re so small” – response “yeah, but I’m good at it”. And then we taught her to walk away (and to get an adults help if necessary). My husband likes this phrase because it does not give the person doing the teasing any further ammunition if you agree with them (and if you can refrain from showing them that they have upset you). We have been practicing role playing this scenario and it has been a lot of fun. Bubba G is so funny when she says her response.

She was given a really cool book by Robert Munsch for her third birthday and in the book is a great story called Stephanie’s Ponytail. In the story Stephanie is teased about her hair and she responds – “it’s my ponytail and I like it!”. Stephanie stands up for herself and because she does, the other children copy her hairstyles (‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ – proverb) . We have been practicing this phrase with Bubba G too.

I also spoke to one of her wonderful teachers. She was beautifully empathic with me and I felt really heard and supported. She told me what they teach the children to say if they are being teased and she said that they would be happy to support Bubba G with the phrases we are teaching her too.

I also texted a wonderful friend who is a Hand in Hand and Aware Parenting instructor (my favourite parenting philosophies). She send me empathy text messages and suggested some attachment play games to help Bubba G to process her feelings.

Here are some of her suggestions:

  • Doing some role playing games in which Bubba G acts out with teddies what she would like to say and do to the children who were teasing her (making it very clear that she can’t do and say these things in reality). The teddies (held by me) can then respond in a light, playful, silly, funny (yet sensitive) manner, with mock fear, mock tears or by being scared – running away and hiding from Bubba G (perhaps peaking out from behind a sofa and returning several times).  The idea is to give her the opportunity to express what she needs to from the incident, to be powerful and to laugh about it as much as she can. Laugher helps her to release any fear she is still feeling from the incident.
  • Playing power reversal games e.g. physical games such as her chasing and tackling me, or pushing me off the bed (with me pretending to fall in a silly way – playing the role of the weaker, smaller person). These types of games help her to feel powerful, which is really important for children who can often feel powerless due to their age and size.
  • If these games bring up strong feelings for Bubba G and she is pushing boundaries, I can set a loving limit and then listen with love and empathy as she releases her feelings via a tantrum.
  • And if these games bring up strong feelings for me, I can process them during a listening partnership with a trusted friend.

I am endlessly appreciative of the amazing support that I receive from the Aware Parenting community, and from Bubba G’s preschool teachers. What a blessing it is to have discovered this parenting philosophy.

Here is a blog post that I wrote at the beginning of my Aware Parenting journey: Our night weaning journey – finding clarity out of the confusion.

With love, light and appreciation


Nutritionist (BHS, Dip Nut), Reiki practitioner and author