There is no doubt about it. Seeing our children be teased or criticised by others can be tricky. I so clearly remember my own reactions to my child being teased; the rush of pain and defense when I heard the comment made. The desperate wanting to protect my child from the pain I felt sure they must be experiencing. Feeling my own anger rising as my mind reached out to attack the person who did this. It is all so familiar and so unpleasant. And my reactions always led to more conflict and unpleasant feelings, not less.
I knew there had to be another way. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted to find it. I set myself the goal of making peace with teasing.
This is what I now understand about teasing. It applies to people teasing me as well as to people teasing my child (or anyone else).
Teasing can only hurt me if
(1) I believe that what they said about me is true, when it isn’t,
(2) What they said about me is true but I can’t own that aspect of myself.
The paradox is that just about everything can be seen both ways.
To take an example, if my son is called is called “girly” or “weak” then he will get upset if he believes that this is true; that he is feminine or weak and that in his mind these are bad things for him to be. On the other hand, it is true that he has feminine characteristics (as everyone does to some extent) and that he is “weak” in some ways, such as being physically or emotionally sensitive in some circumstances (which many people are too). If he is not fully comfortable with these aspects of himself then he will react to such comments.
As his parent, if I have ever judged my son as girly or weak then part of me believes that what the person said is true. I am sure to react in anger; “How could that person come right out and say what I have been secretly thinking all along!!” If I am not completly comfortable with my son’s sensitivity, feminine aspects or weakness or believe that any of these things are a problem I will also react; “I know that is true but I can’t bear him to be that way!!”
On top of this, if I have ever judged myself myself harshly as being “girly” or “weak” then I will react even more!!
When I am really comfortable about myself and am not concerned with what others think of me then I no longer react to what people think about my kids.
When my child has been teased I choose to focus on myself first. Am I reacting? Am I going on the defense or attack?
If I am reacting defensively I better keep my mouth shut and do nothing. If I leap in to try and help my child or to attempt to fix the situation while I am in reaction I will become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Instead I choose to inquire within myself. Do I believe that what was said was true? What aspect of my child or myself am I not comfortable with? What judgements have I been making? Gently bringing these painful thoughts into my awareness can make a huge difference. I get to see where I have been unkind to my child and to myself. I have the opportunity to question these thoughts and to choose to see things differently. This can take time.
Once I feel clear and free of reaction I may be able to help my child. I can be there as calm presence for my child as they get to work it all out for themselves. I can be the one who knows that they are fine just the way they are. I can understand their pain and distress without buying into it myself. I have been there and know what it feels like and I have come out the other side into peace.
I know this is a very unconventional view, but I aim to be the one who is immune to teasing. Not because I am tough in any way, but becasue I have questioned the stories about how I “should” be and I have discovered that I am OK. I can also see how I encompass and have (at some time) expressed all aspects of the human condition including violence, weakness, vulnerability, masculine and feminine and everything else. Can you get the paradox?
If I can model immunity to teasing then I can help to end the war for all of us.
My children are helping me along the way. They delight in teasing me. They try their very best to get a reaction. They delight in teasing each other. They play war games and test it all out. We all get a really good look at what is going on. We are unlearning war and reclaiming peace.