Poor, poor Underdog. (If you haven't been to his blog yet, do go check it out.) He wrote me another note this month, asking for more parenting advice. Obviously, a guy who writes to Yours Truly, asking for advice about raising children, is in a world of hurt and is incredibly desperate. Yours Truly, however, is always happy to hand out a few words of counsel when asked, and often even when not asked.
Here was his letter, followed by my response:
I am following your advice to let my wife lead the whole manners training thingy. This was a timely turn of events because I'm afraid that I sprained both shoulders in an unfortunate making farts with my armpit at the dinner table accident just before reading your blog on the subject.
While in traction, I couldn't help but notice that "National Communicate With Your Kids Month" and "National Sarcastics Awareness Month" coincide. Do you recommend combining the celebration of these two occasions?
First of all, I hope your shoulder injury has not kept you from the most important of head-of-household tasks, that of running the TV remote, and I trust you are well on the road to good health.
As to your question. I do not recommend using sarcasm with children, mostly because they do not grasp the subtle yet complex nuances of this mode of communication, which is NEA-speak for "They don't get it."
I know this because of my experience with my own children, who, even as teenagers, apparently have difficulty grasping the meaning of short sentences composed of single-syllable words.
Case in point: My fifteen year old son recently came across some puppies for sale, and decided to try to convince me that we needed yet another useless hair shedder. Note that this child has been speaking English rather fluently since the early age of 13 months, and should have a reasonable grasp on the language.
SON: Mom, aren't they cute?
Me: Do not ask.
SON: They're only $100!
Me: No more dogs.
SON: I'll take care of it!
Me: No. More. Dogs.
SON: If Dad says it's okay, can we get one?
Me: Yes, when I'm dead.
SON, to siblings: Guys!! Mom says we can get another dog!!
Or this exchange, with my eleven year old son, after I picked him up from hockey practice the other night:
Me: I noticed a guy smoking outside the rink tonight.
SON: Who was it?
Me: I don't know. Someone's dad, I think.
SON: What was his name?
Me: I don't know his name.
SON: Was it Spencer's dad?
Me: I don't know his name.
SON: Was it Ian's dad?
Me: I do not know who it was.
SON: I'll name all the guys on my team, and you tell me whose dad it was.
Me, louder: I do not know who it was.
SON: Colton? Matt?
Me: I'll buy you a taco if you quit asking me.
FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SON, who is riding in the back seat: Will you buy us a dog, too?
So, as you can see, it is best to avoid sarcasm with children and just stick to plain language, or, in some cases, simple grunts.