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Saumini Vishwanathan doesn't know what to do. She says, "My daughter is always crying and complaining because her older brother teases her. I know that it's bound to happen between siblings, but in the case of my children it seems a little excessive."

It can be exasperating for parents when they are constantly called upon to mediate between warring siblings. After a long day at the office or in the midst of coping with the hurly-burly of life, it can be really annoying when your child comes crying to you saying that her brother called her "stupid" or said that the neighbour's son was her boyfriend. You wonder whether your daughter is being too sensitive or your son too mean. 

Parents have certain typical ways of reacting in such situations. Either they lash out at both children in frustration or they give the teaser a tongue-lashing and comfort the teased. But this is not a satisfactory solution. The child who teases should learn that seeing his sibling upset and weeping should not be his idea of entertainment. On the other hand, children on the receiving end of the teasing should be taught to toughen up and cope with the situation without having to run to "mummy" or "daddy" every time.

Tips on dealing with teasing  

  • Keep in mind that it is quite natural for teasing to occur between siblings. So there's no point trying to clamp down on it in a Hitlerian fashion.
  • Explain to the child given to teasing that while he may find it amusing and even the teased child might like the attention initially, he must stop when the other child says so or when it is obvious that the other child is getting upset.
  • Teach your child that she must learn to cope. Explain to the child that by reacting to the 'teaser' she is just rising to the bait. Tell her that when she cries or flies into a rage at his comments she is just fuelling the teasing behaviour. 
  • The teased should either ignore the teaser, walk away or calmly tell him to stop. Adopting this approach will mean that the teaser will soon lose interest and look for some other form of amusement.
  • But if the teasing takes the form of hitting or using abusive language, then you should not expect the teased child to cope on her own. You must step in and make it clear to the teaser that he has crossed a line and such behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Try not to take the side of the teased child all the time. She will learn that it pays to play the martyr and it will result in the other child being made to feel victimized by you. Address the issue in such a way that they both have to face the consequences. For instance, deprive both of them of their TV privileges till they can learn to play together without teasing.
  • Convey to them that teasing and the quarrels associated with it do not just involve the two of them. It disturbs the rest of the family too. Thus, whenever the teasing becomes a problem for other family members, it is important that you make the children realize that and take disciplinary action. For instance, you could tell them that because of their incessant quarreling you haven't been able to complete your work. As a result, you will not be able to take them for a movie like you had promised.
  • Try to distract the teaser by involving him in some other activity. Send him on an errand or play a game with him.
  • Encourage your children to be cooperative rather than competitive.
  • Teasing is often the reflection of a child's need to establish his superiority. You can channelize his energies so that he can display his superiority in different ways. 

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