Kids really do say the darndest things. The show of the same name was before my time, but being a mother and working with children has shown me that truth. So often we dismiss, punish, or ignore what children say. Rarely do we really listen. It is a shame since children are such a valuable resource on how others view the world and sometimes how they view you. I like to say, “Kids can make such beautiful or ugly mirrors” since what they say and do often is a reflection of ourselves. If we behave in an ugly way, our children will too. It is important to model the behavior we want.
One day last summer, I walked in on my kids making a huge mess in my kitchen. I apparently had a look of disappointment and simply said, “nice”. My then seven year old asked me, “Why do you say “nice” when your face does not mean it? You really don’t think this mess is nice.” He reflected to me that my words and face and voice did not match and he felt confused.
Now, I was raised in a family that used sarcasm as often as nouns and verbs. It was a part of our regular interaction. Mostly it was used for humor, but not always. But here is the rub: kids don’t get sarcasm. It is lost on most kids less than six years of age. At around six, kids can pick up a sarcastic or ironic, or facetious tone, but they do not know how to interpret it. At around age ten they begin to be able to tease the literal meaning of a statement from the intent and add facial expressions, tone of voice, and familiarity with the sarcastic person speaking to assess the joke or statement.
How often do we adults speak to children with sarcasm, or irony, or facetious tones? For me, it was way too often. My son’s statement to me that day was a clear statement that even though we were speaking the same language; my message was being lost in translation. Not only that, but he was trying to model my behavior and getting in some hot water! So now I have had a daily struggle to manage my instinct to be sarcastic around my children so that they do not pick up that style of communication. Funny enough, not everyone values sarcasm or finds humor in it. (See what I did just there? It’s not really funny that people do not find sarcasm funny.) So I find it best to not trouble my kids with learning sarcasm. I want them to be able to trust people that what they say is what they mean. The best way for me to do that is to model that behavior. Think of how much easier our relationships would be with everyone if we all just said what we meant?
I hope you are enjoying our theme this week. Keep checking in for more fun stories from children!
Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield