Teasing vs bullying

Bullying is something that affects a lot of people – children, teenagers and adults alike, and it is often unrecognised, and passed off as “just teasing” or “joking around”, this got me thinking… Where is the line between teasing and bullying?

As a child, and still now, I have always been “teased”. Would I call it bullying? I don’t know. I don’t really know where the difference is. If it upsets you, does that make it bullying?

According to google and dictionary.com, here are the definitions of bulling/bully:

Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants. (google)

a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. (dictionary.com)

And the definitions of teasing:

Make fun of or attempt to provoke (a person or animal) in a playful way. (google)

To irritate or provoke with persistent petty distractions, trifling raillery, or other annoyance, often in sport. (dictionary.com)

Looking at the definitions, they really aren’t that different. The main difference seems to be whether it is in a playful/sporting manner, or an intimidating manner. Therefore, I think it is very likely that a lot of “teasing” is actually bullying (in the eyes of the victim) and a lot of “bullying” is seen as teasing by the “bully”… there is a fine line, and it is easy to cross.

I have always been teased for being small, ever since I can remember. Now, at the age of 19 I can deal with this teasing, and I realise that being small doesn’t actually matter (even if I am the height of the average 12 year old..) but when I was younger, it really used to upset me. I hated being small. I used to get very upset about it, and I can remember crying to my dad about it, and him telling me “your height is one thing you can’t change, so there’s no point in worrying about it.” and my mum said “all the best things come in small packages.” It has taken many years for me to be okay with being small, I’d rather be taller, but I’m not – so I’ll deal with it. Now, I often make the jokes myself, because if I don’t I know others will.

I remember in primary school one day all my friends decided to run away from me and hide. They were playing around, but when I found them, they said I couldn’t join their “club” unless I knew the password, which of course I didn’t. To me, this really hurt, and is something I have never forgotten. I think this happened in year 4, which is now 11 years ago…

I remember on a scout camp, the boys were “teasing” me as they always did, and had been winding me up all weekend. Finally, they took it too far, putting a caterpillar on my head, resulting in me screaming “F- off” in front of the entire scout group, cub pack and beaver colony… not my greatest moment, but I had been provoked for the whole weekend… I obviously got in trouble for this language, but to me it wasn’t fair – they were winding me up, they wouldn’t leave me alone, they upset me – eventually they were going to get a reaction!

Everywhere I go, I feel I am always left out of “the group” – I will never be one of those popular people, and that’s okay with me, but the constant “teasing” isn’t, and I guess that’s where I draw the line. The fact that it upsets me means they shouldn’t do it. If they know it upsets me, is that bullying? Then again, maybe I’m just too sensitive… I don’t know.

Bullying/teasing is an issue we often have to deal with at Cubs, as the children are 8 – 10, and like to wind each other up sometimes. We have explained to them, in simple terms that sometimes saying things to people can upset them, and even though you may not mean to bully them, if it upsets them it isn’t ok. (Obviously this is only in terms of verbal teasing/bullying, physical bullying is a lot more clear cut, and is something we take a zero tolerance policy on.)

What are your views on bullying vs teasing?

to irritate or provoke with persistent petty distractions,trifling raillery, or other annoyance, often in sport.


5 thoughts on “Teasing vs bullying

  1. aallegoric says:

    I feel like I should say something deeply insightful but I have nothing to offer. Hell, I don’t even know what bullying constitutes. That may sound weird but all I can say is that it’s pain. And if you obviously can’t bear being teased in a playful way with these people noticing that you don’t take it well and they still keep going…yes, I guess that’s it.
    And don’t care about anyone saying “Oh, they didn’t mean it like that” or “It wasn’t that horrible”. Well – fuck these people. Perpetrators and bystanders. It’s about your own perception about what’s unbearable or not and not theirs (obviously, because they don’t have to take it).

  2. Bourbon says:

    I guess as the definitions say with teasing both parties find it funny and the person being teased almost eggs the other on, keeps it going, his her mannerisms say it is okay for you to tease me about this. It doesn’t sound like those situations you have been in we’re teasing to be honest. It was clear you weren’t finding it funny. You weren’t egging them on. Hope you’re okay xox

  3. escapingdarkness says:

    I was always one of the tallest and skinniest and I got teased for that. So whether you are small or tall, fat or thin, those kind of people will find something to tease someone about. That is the kind of humans they are. I do hear good things come in small packages, but think they come in tall ones too. Kat 🙂

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