Jacqueline told me that her friend “told a secret I told her and made up a rumor about our other friend.” Melissa said, “There’s a girl at school who doesn’t have many friends. She told me a bunch of secrets about people and I didn’t like it.” Vanessa lamented “I get teased by some of the people at my school. Can you tell me if there is something wrong with me? Do I have to change myself to get them to stop teasing?” Rae told me, “My two best friends sometimes pick on me or insult me. I told them how I felt and one of them stopped, but the other did it more.”
One of the unpleasant realities of youth is teasing, gossip, and rumors. It usually stems from insecurities. When kids don’t feel very good about themselves, they may put down other kids by teasing, gossiping, or spreading rumors. Some kids want to feel important or powerful so that others will like them, and they think these behaviors are the way to accomplish that. They want so badly to fit in that they will do things with a group they would never do alone. Imagine giving up your own values just because you want to belong! Deep down, they are afraid of being excluded themselves. If the person being hurt is not able to stand up to the teasing, he or she may believe the ridiculous stuff that is being said.
But when people tease, gossip, or spread a rumors, what they actually do is make themselves look untrustworthy. For example, if you had a group of friends and one person in the group was always gossiping about the others, wouldn’t you wonder if they were going to gossip about you to someone else when you weren’t around?
It can feel really awful if you’re on the receiving end of these behaviors, especially if it’s coming from somebody you consider a friend. You may feel like a victim. It stings if you believe it, and it hurts because you feel betrayed. If there is an opportunity to talk with the person alone, or with a parent, teacher, or counselor, it could help. Those who are teasing, gossiping, or spreading rumors may deny what they are doing, but they will know that you are not going to stand by helplessly when they treat you badly.
If you belong to a group that teases and excludes other kids, how would it feel if you stood up for another kid who is being teased, even if you might be standing alone? Doing what is right, instead of going along with the crowd, can make you feel powerful.