Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sarcasm, fibs and lies - oh my!





I may have inadvertently taught my girls how to lie. A few months back, I was excited that my daughters were able to understand the basic concept of sarcasm. (The older a bit more than the younger.) Explaining the finer points of sarcasm to them was initially intended to help me not have to explain myself all the time. In case you missed it in previous posts - I tend to be a bit sarcastic at times...ok, all the time.

I use sarcasm with them to tone down my disappointment when their attitudes are flaring out of control. I use it the same way I often use humor in my everyday life to tone down some frustration I have in an effort to not blow a fuse. No matter the reasoning behind teaching them about sarcasm, it seems to have back fired on me.

First, neither of them truly understands when I am being sarcastic versus being serious. Either that, or they are even smarter than I already believe them to be and they're just playing games with me. Second, when either of them attempts to say something sarcastic, they get confused and end up just telling a lie. It's a subtle difference, but the difference is obviously there. The third (and most important) way it has backfired on me is that their harmless "fake telling of a lie intended as sarcasm" has turned into telling outright fibs, tall tales and lies.

I remember as a kid going up to dad and asking if I can have one of the freshly baked cookies cooling on the kitchen table. Dad would say, "I don't know. Go ask your mom." As most of you may understand (as it seems to be a common kid tactic), that resulted in me going up to mom and saying, "Dad said I could have a cookie if it's ok with you." Since my parents were always three steps ahead of me, they knew the real story, but it didn't seem to stop me from using this method on a weekly basis.

Fast forward 30+ years and my kids have put their own twists on my old scheme. Ziva, my six year old, is a little conniver that has taken it to an entirely different level. Siri, my four year old, has taken it down a simpler, but darker path.

Ziva has learned how to use reverse psychology on her sister. Fortunately, she has already learned that it doesn't work on mom and dad. On the flip side, she remembers EVERYTHING and has a (pretty impressive) ability to repeat comments and conversations we had six months ago with amazing accuracy. The problem is that she has also learned how to take things out of context to try and use them against you in an "argument." She could probably go into politics with her great negotiating and debating skills....backed by out of context or inaccurate facts.

Siri on the other hand doesn't really have a grasp on sarcasm or the ability to use subtle sentence manipulation to get what she wants. She just tells the bold faced lie. Just this morning, as I was returning from a run to Kwik Trip to grab a coffee for my wife and donuts for the girls, Siri caught me as I was climbing out of my truck. The conversation went like this:

Siri: "Mom said it was ok for me to ride my scooter out on the front sidewalk."
Me: "But you're still in your jammies."
Siri: "Mom said it was ok."
Me: "I kind of doubt that. Let's go see what mom said."
(A minute later....)
Wife: "I did NOT say that was ok. We really need to work on your lying."
Siri: "What?!?"
Wife: "You really need to stop all this lying you've been doing."
Siri: "What?!?"

I think you get the idea.

Fortunately, it's all been relatively harmless and obvious stuff like this, but it is a bad habit to get into. It's also an even harder habit to break. I do feel I am somewhat to blame due to my excessive use of sarcasm. It also probably doesn't help that I'm not always able to stifle my chuckle when Siri blurts out a real whopper of a tall tale. The same goes with my clearly impressed expressions when Ziva is manipulating the truth and facts to try and steer a conversation in the direction she wants it to go.

The lesson I have learned from this is that young children probably aren't yet ready to comprehend (or replicate) sarcasm. I also need to do a better job of not showing my satisfaction in their ability to steer a conversation however they want...considering they don't always have the best intent in mind.

I am hopeful for the future though. Their ability to drive and control a conversation at such a young age will come in handy in the future....once they learn when and how to do it properly. I have had this ability come in handy many times over in the business world. Coaching and counselling sessions have a much better impact when you have the ability to let the person you are talking to talk themselves into a corner.

If all else fails in my ability to maintain control of the conversation with my two little negotiators, I have learned that the greatest tools in my arsenal are misdirection and boredom. I can still shock them out of their train of thought by going off onto a completely unrelated tangent. If I have to pull out the big guns, I tell them a very long and boring story. Putting them together results in a confused child who is too tired and bored to argue anymore. For anyone who'e read a few average jester blogs, you know that I can ramble on for quite some time....with or without a real topic. Until next time....