Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Communication is Very Important

Saying to your child, “If you don’t stop that, I’m going to rip of your arms and beat you to death with them‘, on the surface may seem like a bad thing. No really – work with me here for a minute… That may seem like a horrible thing to say to a child, but when you’re actually communicating, “You’re really bugging me. I’ve asked you to stop it nicely three times and I am REALLY getting frustrated with your refusal to consider my needs“, it’s not so bad. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that the first comment conveys the feeling behind the second message much more efficiently than the second. Sure, the second message is more honest, but it’s boring. And if you’re having to ask nicely yet again, then obviously asking nicely just isn’t going to cut it and something new is called for. Introduce sarcasm.

This post comes from reading some mommy-blog nonsense about speaking respectfully to your kids. While I actually agree with that for the most part, reading something like that leaves little room for human error, personality and actual feelings. It makes you sound like some uber-sensitive whiner who lacks imagination and humor. {Picture Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled as the ginger kid on the beach crying at the sunset. YAWN.) I fall into none of those categories, and I don’t want kids like that either. No one really communicates that way and normal people find those few who do extremely annoying.

I get so frustrated with all that ‘let’s talk about our feeeeelings’ crap. It’s just not that complicated. Yes, you should, of course:

  • strive to do things better than your parents did
  • research as a system of checks and balances to continually make sure that what you’re doing is the best you can do for your kids
  • do everything you can to maintain balance in your life while meeting the needs of your children, your marriage and your own to the best of your ability
  • for Pete’s sake, please LISTEN to your children

But you can do those things without becoming a freaking psychiatrist in the process. There are days when I just don’t have the energy to delve into the ‘why’ of ‘you’re driving Mom bonkers with whatever it is you’re doing that you’ve been doing for the past seven hours straight’ or the ability to respectfully explain that Mom just doesn’t care if you’re arguing with your brother again over the same toy that doesn’t even belong to you. As Bill Cosby says, “…parents don’t care about justice. They want QUIET!”

I’m not saying that you should never speak to your child in plain terms or that you shouldn’t explain to them the intricacies and subtext of human communication and feelings, because we most certainly should. They’re not going to learn or understand those things without our guidance and true concern for their ability to communicate effectively as adults. But there are times when it’s okay to tell your kid (for the fifth time in fifteen minutes) to just GO AWAY and follow that with a threat of violent bloody death. They know you’re not serious about the death part, but they also know that you definitely want them to leave you alone at that point. Yes, they may have something that they want or need, but unless they’re bleeding or need to tell you about little Timmy in the well, it can probably wait until you’re finished doing whatever it is that you’re doing. Or they can ask Dad. You don’t always have to put your child’s needs ahead of your own, especially once they’re old enough to communicate with you verbally.

I think that’s an important thing for moms, especially stay at home moms who are on-call 24/7, to recognize. I think it’s teaching them to be selfish little brats when you always stop whatever you’re doing and give them your complete attention. Babies lack the ability to distinguish want from need, but a 3-year-old is beginning to and a 5-year-old most certainly can tell that he needs to go potty but only wants a cookie. If we never help them separate need from want, we’re doing them a disservice. Blinding ourselves to their growing ability to use our desire of making sure they feel heard as a tool to get what they want is not teaching them anything useful. Rather, it teaches them that it’s okay to trample over someone else and that the world revolves around them. That’s a bad thing for someone to grow up thinking. The real world doesn’t work like that. There’s always an authority figure that you’re under, and waiting is a sucky but unavoidable part of life.

There’s another instance where sarcasm as a normal part of life might just save it. I read a story once about a father/daughter family who moved into a big city. She was a teen, and their ‘code’ was that when he asked how she was, she would answer with some off the wall thing like, “Oh, I’m in the middle of a gang war” which meant, ‘Everything’s fine.”  Actually answering, “I’m fine, Daddy” meant that everything was not fine and that she needed him to come pick her up. Of course, that was a plot device that came in handy when she got kidnapped a couple of chapters later, but I always thought that was a good plan, especially when your kid might be in a place or situation where they can’t or don’t want to come out and say, ‘I’m in trouble; please come get me‘. Different, but I see it in the same vein and so shall mention it here, a lady I used to know from a parenting forum said that she always told her teens as they left for an evening out something to the effect of, “I love you and I want you to be safe. If you feel unsafe at any time, for any reason, call me and I will come and get you, no questions asked for tonight. You’re the most important thing in the world to me.” She put her hands on their face and looked into their eyes as she said it, and put the power of mama’s conviction into those words to deeply convey her love and commitment to her kid’s well-being – at least, that’s how I envisioned that in my head. I always thought that was a really good idea, too. The two methods converge nicely, I think.

All told, I want my kids to be sarcastic and snarky. That’s the kind of adult that I enjoy being around, and that’s my job – to produce adults that I respect, right? I want them to be able to recognize that they’re being kind-of a jerk without putting someone in the unfortunate position of having to point out, “Hey man! You’re being a jerk!”.  Sarcasm is a personality feature that I have no plans to shed and 90% of my friends are well versed in Sarcasm 101. I want my kids to appreciate a dry sense of humor and how to use sarcasm effectively. So far, so good. That does mean that I can’t complain when they reply with a sarcastic remark (unless it’s just entirely inappropriate), and maybe it’s just my sense of humor, but I’ve often been amused enough to laugh with them at a comment that they make in the heat of an irritated moment. Saying something completely off the wall can diffuse a tense situation and bring everybody down a notch so that you can resolve whatever issue you’re currently having more peacefully. Plus, it’s funny.

Sarcasm is not always going to be the right tool. In fact, it’s not even going to be one of your primary parenting communication tools. But sarcasm can have a place in communication with your kids and you’re not going to permanently damage them just because you say something that sounds horrible (to nosy buttinskis who have no concept of how your family communicates) that you know, and they know, you don’t mean. They’re confident in the knowledge that you’re not really going to rip off their arms – I mean, if you freak out about water on the floor coming in from the pool, then the arterial spray alone would probably send you into orbit. Geesh. No blood in the living room, right? And if you’re doing it right, then something like, “C’mere and let me torture you” will elicit a smile from your kid as they willingly run into your arms because that’s just another way of saying ‘Come give your mama a kiss’.




3 responses

  1. Amy

    You left me a message on Secular Homeschooling that you liked my avatar. Well, I love your blog!!

    Sarcasm is a very prominent tool in our house just so we can maintain our sanity some days. DH and I are sarcastic people who have passed on that gene to our kiddos.

    It is great to virtually meet you.


    August 1, 2010 at 7:43 am

  2. Thanks for checking in! I do like your avatar on SH. The walk through the woods somehow screams ‘homeschooling’ to me, and I love it; I don’t know why. Makes me happy though 🙂

    You know, I kinda worried over how this post would be taken. 80% of it is in humor, but you never know who is reading and how they’ll interpret. I’m glad you got it, lol.
    Thanks so much for commenting!

    August 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

  3. Jana

    LMAO !!! I so totally agree. We use a lot of sarcasm here. I wouldn’t survive without it !

    August 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm

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