An Interview with Ginger Hubbard, Coauthor of Shawn and His Amazing Shrinking Sister,
Part of the Teaching Children
to Use Their Words Wisely Series
A little teasing doesn’t hurt anyone, right? Wrong! Think for a moment about why children (or adults) tease. To get attention? To impress others? Are they trying to feel important by cutting down someone else? Most of the motivation for teasing is selfish: getting what one wants at the expense of someone else’s feelings. That’s why it is important to make sure children understand why teasing is hurtful. Shawn and His Amazing Shrinking Sister: A Book about Teasing, written by Ginger Hubbard and Al Roland, gives parents guidance for ending teasing while teaching children how to build one another up instead of tearing one another down.
Shawn and Annie are excited for a family camping trip, but trouble awaits! Mom and Dad tease each other, and soon Shawn follows their lead and starts teasing Annie. But every time Shawn is unkind and teases her, Annie gets a little bit smaller. As Annie shrinks, the whole family learns how teasing can be hurtful to others and how it dishonors God.
Q: Please introduce us to your series, Teaching Children to Use Their Words Wisely. What inspired you and your coauthor, Al Roland, to create the series?
As a conference speaker, I have listened to parents all over the country express heartache over their inability to help their children get a handle on tongue-related offenses such as whining, lying, and teasing. So many children today are in bondage to enslaving addictions of the tongue, which stem from enslaving sins of the heart. Parents are looking for ways to uproot these issues, address them from a biblical perspective, and point their children to Jesus—who is our only hope for change.
I’ve written parenting books to help parents do that, but my coauthor and I wanted to write children’s books to help them grasp these same concepts in fun ways. My coauthor, Al Roland, had some creative story ideas to help us do that.
Q: What are the most common forms of teasing between children? Why is teasing harmful?
Teasing can manifest in many ways, such as mocking (imitating someone for the purpose of making them appear and feel stupid, silly, or ridiculous) or insulting (verbally ridiculing or belittling someone for the purpose of making them appear and feel inadequate or less significant).
Whether the teaser is criticizing, belittling, or making fun in a joking way, biblically, teasing falls under the category of “unwholesome talk” that fails to benefit the listener. In fact, unwholesome talk does just the opposite. It tears down the person being teased, which is a direct violation of God’s commands to love others (John 13:34) and build them up (Ephesians 4:29).
Q: How can parents identify the heart motives behind their children’s teasing?
There are at least three motives behind children teasing: to get attention, to entertain, and to verbalize what you truly mean. The latter typically loses the merit of truth when “just kidding” is quickly added after the so-called teasing remark. All three motives are selfish in nature, as they bring a form of satisfaction to the teaser at the expense of hurting someone else.
If there is an audience, the motive is most likely geared toward receiving attention and entertaining. There is selfish motivation at play when getting attention or getting a laugh takes precedence over the feelings of others. Desiring attention at the expense of someone else violates God’s command to value the interests of others over our own (Philippians 2:4).
Q: What is the problem with children using teasing as a means to express how they really feel?
It’s deceitful to verbalize what is true in the heart and then play it off as teasing. Proverbs 26:18-19 clearly addresses this issue: “Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!’” Matthew 5:37 commands that we let our yes be yes and our no be no. We are to say what we mean and mean what we say. That verse also warns that “anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Christlike, unselfish communication involves speaking truth in love and comes from a desire to bring blessing, not harm. According to Ephesians 4:15, it is through this sort of communication that believers grow in maturity in Christ: “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
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