I was at Target the other morning listening to a mother berate her son. He was acting up, and being disrespectful to her, and she was talking very loudly using only sarcasm to hurt him back. ”I hope someone else takes you home since you won’t listen to me apparently,” she said, and then continued in increasing volume,”Whoever does end up with you doesn’t know what they are in for – with how rude and disrespectful you are, and how you literally NEVER LISTEN.” It sounded wounded and hurt to my ears. Not the best parenting, but also a cry for help to be able to communicate with her kids. Say what you mean, instead of belittling and verbally abusing your child, I thought. Then realized I was guilty myself of doing this same thing. And using sarcasm when I was fed up, at my limit, tired, and not getting through to them. Or so I thought.
I have said things to my kids where their retort is always, “are you telling the truth, Mom?” And I say sighing, “No, its sarcasm.” They don’t get it. My attempt at biting humor goes right over their heads. But they do get something out of it, because then I hear them talk to each other the same way. And it sounds worse. Sarcasm seems like a cowards way of saying something. Something you are insecure about saying, or feel powerless about; you use “humor” or sarcasm to cover up.
Another Huffington Post Parents article,“Very Funny!” Why Sarcasm Is No Laughing Matter for Kids by
author and therapist, Signe Witson , talks about sarcasm as sugarcoated hostility, and how it is actually a form passive aggressive behavior and not witty banter like you sometimes think (while doing it.) Everyone always wants to get off that perfectly timed “zinger” that simultaneously wounds and makes you look cleaver at the same time. But your zinger only serves to make you look small and powerless. The opposite you feel during that millisecond after you say something sarcastic and scarring. For a brief moment you may feel clever, but the ripple effect quickly takes that away.
My goal is to listen to this in myself. To watch my words, because words can and do hurt. They wound and scar, and they are passed on from me to my children, to their siblings and to their friends, and to their own relationships. It is eye opening when you start to hear things in this way, and you cringe a little inside when you are big enough to admit it is often your own voice.
Say what you mean. Directly and clearly. Without trying to cover up your own insecurities with sarcasm in the name of humor.