Name Calling: When to Get Involved as a Parent

From January 18-22, students across the nation were encouraged at school to treat one another with respect, and address each other with only kind words in honor of No Name Calling Week. This is currently one of the largest anti-bullying initiatives moving among the youth in America.


Name Calling: When to Get Involved as a Parent
This beautiful movement is gaining popularity, and supporting the value of virtues such as respect and kindness to teens. However, the issues of name calling and bullying do still exist every week of the year for many teenagers.


As the parent of a teen, it is very important to know when and how to get involved if your teen is being called unkind names at school, or is calling others names.


What is Name Calling and Why Do Teens Call One Another Names?

Not all teasing is malicious. In fact, teens frequently tease one another in friendly manners that demonstrate endearment, closeness, and shared memories.

According to Earlychildhood News, however, name calling is a variation of teasing that children and teens use to assert and test their power and dominance over their peers. The tone and intent of this type of teasing are usually both aimed to hurt, diminish, or overpower another person.

So why do some teens name call, while others do not? The reasons can be varied, but name calling is a typically a patterned behavior that a teen has learned from their parents, siblings, friends, or television.


What Happens if an Adult or Parent Intervenes?

As the parent of a teen who is being hurt by teasing and name calling, it’s very difficult not to immediately intervene and attempt to diffuse and correct the situation on your teen’s behalf. Depending on the situation and the teens involved, it is also hard to determine if your actions will help resolve the conflict or fuel it further.

Common results of parental intervention include:
• The victim of name calling feels weak or powerless by a parent coming to their defense, which ultimately makes them feel worse about themselves.
• The teen doing the name calling loses further respect for the person they’re bullying because they did not stand up for themselves.
• The teen being called names becomes reliant on parental or adult involvement to resolve conflicts or issues with peers.
• The name calling teen will cease their teasing when parents or adults are present, but will continue when they are not present.
• The name calling will stop entirely, and the teens will become, or return to being, friends.

The last result is ideal for everyone involved, and it does happen often times when parents become involved, but only if parents intervene at the right time, in the correct manner.


Guidelines for When to Get Involved

Israel Kalman is a school psychologist who created the program Bullies 2 Buddies, which is designed to help adolescents learn how to resolve conflicts on their own. He asserts that teaching teens to diffuse negative comments will help them become stronger and more resilient in dealing with confrontation and conflicts positively.

If you learn that your teenager is being called names, or is the one calling others names at home or school then you can use these questions to help guide your involvement decision.

Is the teasing fun for both teens?
If both teens seem to be having fun, and are jesting each other in harmless ways, then you probably do not need to intervene unless the situation escalates or the teasing becomes cruel or derogatory.

Is there an underlying problem or argument driving the name calling?
If the name calling or teasing happening appears to be a result of an underlying conflict or issue the teens are having with one another, then it is a good time to involve yourself. Stop the name calling, and ask both teens to speak to you about why they are upset, and guide them in resolving their conflict together based on what you discover.

Do the name calling instances occur repetitively?
If you notice that teasing occurs repeatedly, and that one of the teens involved may be getting upset or hurt by certain names, this is a good time to intervene. Ask the teen being teased if they are okay, and if they indicate they are bothered, then help them firmly tell the other teen to stop.

What does your intuition and judgement say?
Always trust your guiding, parental intuition and judgement when considering when to intervene. If you feel strongly that you need to help resolve the situation, then you are most likely correct.


If your teen is being called names, or has a problem bullying or calling others names at home or school, and you feel the situation has grown beyond your control, always consult a professional counselor or therapist to help you and your teen.

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