An excerpt from a new Sarah book coming to shelves soon. Sarah and a Date for Mackenzie
Mackenzie, a high school senior is talking to her mom Jessica, a teacher in Mackenzie's school, and her grandmother, Bonnie.
"What’s the difference between bullying and teasing?” Mackenzie sliced into meatloaf.
Sometimes joshing is for fun—maybe Ethan is trying to make you feel at ease. Or it could be his way of flirting with you.” Jessica closed one eye and seemed to search her mind for more definitions.
“Having said that, let me hasten to say this. Teasing from anyone, including Ethan, can turn nasty and become bullying. I’ve seen kids at school start out with a plan to intimidate another with a tease but it escalated to physical abuse.”
Bonnie crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Does Ethan try to bodily hurt you?”
“He’d better not. I’ll make him put his tail between his legs and whimper like a scolded puppy.” Bonnie’s glare could ignite a furnace.
Jessica and Mackenzie both giggled at the fierce look on the older woman’s face.
Jessica bit her lip as she continued to muse. “Teasing in a fun manner can be a friendly way of communicating. Tone, facial expression, and body language often convey a person’s intention. Does Ethan appear to say things to you in a good-natured or aggressive way?”
Mackenzie shrugged and wrinkled her nose. “Good-natured, I guess.”
Jessica nodded. “Yet you still view his demeanor as negative. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a teaser and a bully. I wouldn’t want you to put up with a tormenter, but I honestly don’t see Ethan in that light. Knowing the difference between a teaser and a bully is complicated. If Ethan acted like a bully toward others, I’d consider having a talk with him about his aggressive attitude. As a teacher, I’m required to write up a student who behaves unacceptably. As a mom, I wouldn’t allow it for you, either. No one should put up with abusive treatment or statements.” She cocked an eyebrow. “If you want, I’ll talk to him.”
“No! That’s one of the reasons I don’t tell you stuff.”
Jessica sighed as if her heart hurt. “I understand. Thing is, that’s one of the reasons a lot of kids endure offensive behavior. They’re afraid of being called a snitch if they tell someone like me. Teachers can help, but teens don’t let us, and that’s too bad. We give a bit of advice when someone asks, or we refer them to a school counselor. They’re experts and make suggestions to modify reactions to taunts. Then, if the bully fails to respond to the new conduct, we take other actions to stop the tough guy’s aggression.” Another huge sigh escaped her lips. “Kids should trust adults.”