Teasing can be a positive experience for children as it teaches them how to show affection and deal with conflict.
Teasing requires an understanding of balance and it takes two willing participants for it to be done well, according to new research appearing in Communication Currents, an online publication of the National Communication Association. A form of play in families, teasing can also help strengthen the bonds between employees in the workplace, and help couples express affection in romantic relationships.
"Research shows us that even very young children can recognize that teasing is not always bad; that sometimes it can be a fun way to play with friends and family," said Carol Bishop Mills, one of the authors of the study.
Often considered the twin of bullying, teasing has a positive side, which bullying does not. Bullying is considered a demonstration of aggression and intent to harm, while teasing allows people to present challenges to each other in a more playful way. Teasing requires play, if the victim was not seeing any 'play' in the interaction, then it becomes bullying.
Mills along with Amy Carwile, the second author of the study, have provided a model called a Teasing Totter. This model helps parents and educators look for clues that help identify whether teasing should be encouraged, discouraged, or stopped immediately. For instance, when children are clearly friends who engage in teasing, both parties are laughing and smiling and the comments provide no more than minor irritation, then the teasing can continue. If it is clear that the children dislike each other, or are teasing each other about unacceptable topics, displaying no play clues, then the teasing should be stopped.
"Rather than eliminate all teasing, teachers and parents can help children learn the differences between teases that can foster play and friendship, from the teases that inflict pain and hurt," said Mills.
Mills is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama. Carwile is a student at the University of Alabama. This essay is currently in the April issue of Communication Currents, and originally appears in Communication Education, both are publications of the National Communication Association.
Communication Currents is an online web magazine of the National Communication Association. Communication Currents makes scholarship available in a form understandable and usable for broad audiences, including communication experts working with lay audiences, instructors and students, the press and other interested members of the public. Essays in Communication Currents highlight the relevance of communication scholarship; demonstrates the way in which communication impacts our world; and demonstrates the leadership of NCA in the study of communication.
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