We spend a lot of time around adults whose main attempt to connect with my kids is by teasing them. My kids don’t like teasing. They are very good at standing up for themselves, and stating they want the teasing to stop. They’re routinely ignored, which is a separate issue, I suppose.
When my kids pleas are ignored, they often lash out. They hit the person who thinks holding them is funny, or they melt down over the person laughing at their expense. And these are the same people who then focus on the child’s behavior as being incorrect. When the behavior is a direct response to the adult’s actions. (No, I don’t think it’s okay for my kids to hit. But I do realize why they are doing so in this instance.)
I think many people learn teasing by being teased by adults as kids, and think that’s just what you do. They see it as good-natured fun. I was raised with lots of teasing. But hearing it now just makes me cringe, and truly feel for the kids at whom it is aimed.
So what instead?
I know it doesn’t have to be this way. Adults pop up randomly that right away know how to connect with kids. They do it through play, or through taking an interest in talking to my children, or in being willing to do what my kids ask them, like joining in on an activity.
So what makes the difference? I don’t really know. I never liked teasing. My highly sensitive nature doesn’t jive with teasing. So I don’t choose to tease kids. I also have kids who hate it, so that is a reminder as well. But what is it about those special people that connect with them? Do they just still like to play themselves, so they find it easier to move into play? Maybe. Do they just like kids? Maybe. Whatever the reason, I really should tell each of these people just how much I appreciate what they do, and just how much my children really like them.
Because kids like being liked, just like the rest of us. And they know you like them when you attempt to connect in a way that reaches them. An attempt to connect in a way that works for you and not the child in your life is not really an attempt to connect. It’s just a lesson to the child that you don’t really like them well enough to learn what they do and don’t like.