Teach your kids Judy Freedman's 10 strategies from Easing the
Teasing and help them pick the ones that work best for them.
Continue to review them throughout the year.
Bullying. It's a hot topic again as tragedies occur
around the country due to cruel harassment and torment. As these
stories make headlines, it's important to discuss how teasing among
young children can lead to more extreme bullying when they get
older, and how kids can stop teasing before it escalates.
Some may think teasing is harmless, but Judy Freedman,
author of Easing the Teasing: Helping Your Child Cope with
Name-Calling, Ridicule, and Verbal Bullying, says bullying and
teasing are on a continuum. If kids learn how to handle teasing
early on, it will help prevent bullying in the future.
"I emphasize that teasing is wrong because a lot of times
kids don't think it is," Freedman says.
Freedman gives presentations to adults and children around
Chicago and across the country on the importance of teasing
prevention. She has also worked with Chicago's Imagination Theater
to develop a program where kids can interact with performers and
learn when teasing becomes hurtful.
But Freedman knows that getting a teaser to stop isn't
easy, so she goes with a different approach.
"Although kids cannot control the actions or words of the
teasers, they can learn to control their reactions to the tease,"
In her book, Freedman provides 10 strategies for children
who are being teased. They focus on the child's reaction to the
teaser, which helps the child being teased stay calm and diffuses
the situation before it escalates.
"In many situations, if kids are empowered with these
strategies, the teasing stops," Freedman says. "Teaching children
strategies to deal with teasing is the first step in bullying
Mimi Black, a social/developmental psychologist and mother
of two, was concerned her son was being teased and came across
Easing the Teasing while researching how to handle the situation.
Black says it was one of the only books on the subject she couldn't
put down because it was compassionate and logical.
"I have found Judy's tips to not only be helpful for
helping my kids keep their cool in school-because let's face it,
what teasers want is a reaction-but they also help my kids keep
their cool with each other," Black says. "They empower both of my
children to have self-respect and respect for their sibling. It has
reduced the imbalance of power that might otherwise be in place
with one child being older than the other."
Black was so inspired that she contacted Freedman and they
began to work together on an Easing the Teasing companion book
aimed at kids. Black has also worked with the Elmhurst School
District to teach students Freedman's tips and
Mother of three Janey Prodoehl says she has seen a
difference in her children after teaching them the
"My oldest daughter had a great idea to put up a smiley
face on the wall and you could talk to the smiley face to get your
anger out," Prodoehl says. "She came up with this all by herself
because of the program."
Freedman encourages parents to practice strategies with
their kids to make sure they know how to use them when they are on
their own. Freedman herself uses the strategies when she speaks to
During one presentation, Freedman was working with a
student who had been teased for his big ears. She stood in front of
him and said: "You have big ears!" He gave her a big smile and
responded, "Yeah, I can hear the ice cream truck a few miles
Prodoehl understands the power of practice, which is why
she has laminated the strategies and placed them near the dining
room table. Her kids can try them out whenever they
"I would say that the more practice you do at home in a
nonthreatening environment, the easier it will be for them to use
these tips in a more pressured situation," Prodoehl
Along with practicing, parents play an important role in
teasing prevention. Freedman reminds parents that kids look to them
for guidance and imitate their behavior. She says it's important to
make sure teasing is not allowed in the home and to discuss teasing
with your kids.
"Just like you would talk about drug prevention and safety
tips, parents need to talk about bullying prevention," Freedman
says. "It may not happen to them, but explain, 'This is what
teasing is, what bullying is.'"
While parents may feel helpless knowing their child is
being teased, Freedman hopes these strategies help them. Black
believes they do.
"I think Judy's work is important because parents often
don't know how to best counsel their child until a teasing problem
has escalated to a bullying situation," Black says.
"When children are being teased and their parents step in
and solve the problem for them, children get the disempowering
message that they aren't strong enough to solve the problem
Every child should feel safe at school and wherever they
spend their time. Plus, parents should feel good about sending them
"It makes me feel better as a parent to give them some
tools going forward," Prodoehl says.
Visit easingtheteasing.com to find more information,
including what to do when your child is the teaser.
Anna Carlson is a Chicago Parent intern.
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