What to do about teasing Short shrift: Mother reports that children are teasing her son about his height, but readers advise her to back off.


January 21, 1996|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My 6- and 4-year-old sons are much shorter than average. My older son is already being teased. How can I build their self-esteem? What do you say to the teasing?

A mother from Los Altos, Calif.

As much as your parental instinct tells you to search to the ends of the Earth to find some armor for your child, what you really

need to do is calm down.

"Don't escalate this into a world-class drama," says Nathaniel Branden, author of "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem" (Bantam, $22.95).

"If you approach this with the belief that teasing is a calamity, you can turn teasing into a calamity," says Dr. Branden, a psychologist in Los Angeles.

Jon Merritt, a counselor at Alameda Elementary School in Portland, Ore., agrees.

"You want to be loving and listen, but you can't solve this for the child," says Mr. Merritt, co-author of "Positive Self-Talk for Children" (Bantam, $10.95).

Parents agree that the love and support the child receives at home will bolster the child, keeping his self-esteem intact when unkind comments come from the outside.

One way parents can help is with a simple affirmation, says Douglas Bloch of Portland, Ore., co-author with Mr. Merritt of "Positive Self-Talk for Children."

"Tell your child, 'Bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and yours is short and that's OK. You are right for you.' "

Several parents have found that certain sports build confidence. Rendell Davis, a Presbyterian minister from Tucson, Ariz., suggests long-distance running, wrestling and tennis.

"Give the child every bit of freedom he can handle so that he can meet situations with confidence," adds Mr. Davis, who is himself exactly 5 feet tall. "I will always be grateful to my parents for making me fight my own fights and not protecting me."

Here are some other ideas:

* Make the child's friends welcome. "A close group of friends will be very important," says Pam Webber of Libertyville.

* Teach the child to fend off teasing with humor, says Liz Harkins of Tempe, Ariz.

* If there is a short adult the child admires, help him to learn to identify with that person, suggests Juanita McCluskey of Duncan, Ariz.

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