All kids use sarcasm at a certain point in their lives. It can be light-hearted or disrespectful and mean-spirited. Parents are often at a loss as to how to respond to it. If you call your children on it, they often say, “I was only joking”. Sarcasm is a slippery behavior, often hard to pinpoint.
This week’s Torah portion, Devarim, retells the story of the spies who traveled to the Promised Land and come back with a negative report to the Israelites camped in the desert. God is angry with them, not only for the negative things they say and the way they demoralize the rest of the people, but also for their tone of voice.
This teaches us that respect actually involves more than the words we use. The tone of one’s voice and body language are also powerful vehicles of meaning. The question is how to teach this to our children. One strategy is to ignore sarcastic remarks. When they are not fed with the oxygen of attention, they are often extinguished. Beyond that, parents should generally insist on respectful communication with them and with their siblings. Furthermore, parents should not exhibit sarcasm with one another or to their children. Children hear it enough from their peers.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the importance of respectful discussion.
CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:
- In what kind of situations do others use sarcasm? Why?
- What response lessens the sting of another person’s sarcasm?
- How are you affected by the tone of voice of others?
- Do you raise your voice to make a point? Is it effective?
By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses
Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.