With the amount of teasing and sarcasm exchanged between my friends and myself, an innocent bystander may assume that we hate each other. But as it turns out, this sort of harmless banter—termed "prosocial teasing" by psychologists—is essential to building friendships and holding your own in a social setting.
"If parents and teachers try and shield their kids too much from any sort of smack talking, then they don't learn to enjoy the crass banter that's such a part of growing up or to stand up for themselves when it goes too far," writes the Science of Us's Drake Baer. He then goes on to quote Boston University psychologist Peter Gray, who recently explained the downsides of socially sheltering children in an interview with Quartz: "[Kids have] heard from adults that [lighthearted teasing] is bullying, and so they get really upset about it rather than knowing how to roll with the punches."
While there's a fine line between prosocial teasing and straight-up bullying, it's worth teaching your kids the difference. Lighthearted teasing—including inside jokes, sarcasm, and harmless jabs—can bring people together and strengthen relationships across all age groups. What they call anti-social teasing, on the other hand, usually exploits an uneven power dynamic that exists between two people, zeroing in on appearance, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
How do you teach your children these important social lessons? Share your parenting insights below, and pick up this best-selling bullying book for your little ones.