Sarcasm: It Is What You Say AND How You Say It

Many of us have long used sarcasm as part of our daily interactions, but as life changes it may be necessary to make changes in our interactions as well.  Children don’t grasp sarcasm at a young age, so we need to be careful how we use sarcasm when our children are around.

A few months back, as our oldest began speaking more, I started to recognize how she reacted to our use of sarcasm.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I keep finding myself thinking about it now.  Mikaela often asks, “Are you home?” when we get home from work, and at times she’s been given “No” as a response.  Obviously we are home when we say no, but we give her a sarcastic response to her seemingly obvious question.  Sarcasm had become a habit in our lives that now needs to change.

Sarcasm – A sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.

Is that really how I want to talk to my child?  Is that how I want my child to hear me talk to anyone?

I never looked at sarcasm as something overtly negative.  I rarely used sarcasm to cut anyone down, but now as I look back on it I see the negative power it has.  I don’t want my daughters to see me as a man of negativity.  I don’t want to be the dad that tears down.  I want to build them up.  I never want to tear them down.

My use of sarcasm just came naturally, so it took a concerted effort to remove it from my standard dialogue.  I won’t lie and say that I’ve been sarcasm-free for x days, but I will say that I am trying.  I do still use sarcasm at times, but very rarely, if at all, around my girls.  I hope that one day soon I can say that I’ve removed sarcasm from my daily dialogue, but I know that work will take time.

We all need to have a filter between our planned words and the time the words propel off our tongues, but now I see that filter needs an extra layer.  Children only see the literal meaning of what they are told and they easily miss the accompanying facial expressions or tone; that’s why we need to not only focus on what we’re saying, but how we’re saying it.

A researcher at the University of Manitoba, Melanie Glenwright, has been studying how children at various ages react to sarcasm.  She used puppets to gauge the children’s attentiveness.  Glenwright’s research shows that children became able to detect sarcasm at age 6, but it took until age 10 for the children to understand the intention behind it.

Now that I’ve seen this research, now that I’ve seen how my daughter reacts to sarcasm used around her, I know I need to cut it from my life.  I don’t want my words to cut or give pain.  I want to encourage.  I don’t want to allow for misunderstandings.  I want to give clarity.

My daughters and my wife deserve the best from me.  That means when I’m with them, when I’m at work, and even when I’m alone I need to consistently strive to be the best version of me that I can be.  I will fall, I will fail, but I am still doing right by them as long as I get back up and continue striving.


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