This was first published on KSL.COM
My husband has a tendency to use sarcasm and teasing with our young children. Our daughter is not, in my opinion, thriving with the teasing and sarcasm because she takes what he says literally. If her dad says, “Clean up your toys, or I will throw them all away," then our daughter drops to the floor in tears and upset. She gets upset because she doesn’t know the difference between sarcasm and reality, and it causes her a lot distress. When this happens I come to her defense and get bothered with my husband’s behavior and we end up fighting about it. Do you agree this behavior is a problem? How can I explain to my husband why he needs to change how he talks to her? I worry about his relationship with our kids and I appreciate any advice.
The dictionary defines sarcasm as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt; a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark." Obviously, this isn’t positive.
Sarcastic comments — though oftentimes humorous — can also be passive-aggressive, mean, cutting and often uncomfortable to the people receiving them. Sarcasm can be the “wit that wounds” and children can’t see the humor in it or understand it until they're older.
In an article for Psychology Today, Signe Whitson writes, “Sarcasm relies on a type of subtlety that most children under the age of 8 do not pick up on. While the majority of adult communication occurs non-verbally through gestures, body languages and tone of voice, children are much more apt to interpret words literally and to miss or disregard non-verbal cues.”
Whitson says sarcasm, when used repeatedly, is a form of verbal abuse.
“It is a passive aggressive behavior in which the speaker expresses covert hostilities in sugarcoated, 'humorous' ways,” she said.
Many kids don’t have the maturity or confidence to handle sarcasm or teasing well. It is critical that we think about a child’s comprehension level and their emotional needs before we use sarcasm or tease them. You may have to communicate differently with each of your children and mindfully choose words that validate, educate and encourage them.
Think about each child in your home and ask yourself the following questions:
You can be funny all you want, but if you do it at the expense of other people, they may not feel safe with you and may end up not liking you. This would be unfortunate with your kids.
My best advice is to slow down and pause before saying anything. Think about why you want to say what you are about to say. Is it love-motivated? Does it really need to be said? Does it meet this specific child’s needs? Take the time to figure out what each of your children need from you and decide how you should change the way you communicate to accomplish this.
If you are living with a sarcastic person, here are a couple of suggestions for dealing with them:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of www.claritypointcoaching.com and you can take her free Clarity Assessment on her website. It is the first step to understanding human behavior and becoming your best self.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.