Sarcasm Central: A Story Of My Love-Hate Relationship With The Kids’ Snarkiness

The time has come, my little fiends, to talk of when you look at your kids and think Omg They Are Such Monsters... 😀

Me: Shush! We're not the only ones eating here. Even I find you annoying and you're my kids.

Rockstar: <raises an eyebrow> Ruh-eally? 

Queen E: <echoes Rockstar> Ruh-eally, really?

Me: Yes, r -

Queen E: <accusingly> You. Stole usssss! <both kids roar with laughter>

Me: <laughs> Now shutup please.

<Satisfied silence all around>

It doesn't always end that happily. Eyerolls, Queen E shrieking indignantly (when she thinks we're mocking her when we are so not), and yes - the dreaded overstepping of boundaries - are all par for the course...

This is a post about the slippery slope of sarcasm, particularly with our kids, and why if we feel like looking for more headaches we might want to Go There. See, many parenting articles will tell you sarcasm is "not for children". They say things like "Little kids can't understand you mean the opposite," (for e.g. when they cover the floor with cornflakes and you say "Gee, thanks." (Well yeah, when you put it that way. But I really think that's only for very young kids..)) Also, we weren't brought up that way. More like Don't Be Snarky Ah Boy, Or You Will Grow Up To Pop Over Seven Elevens And Spend Your Life In Jail As A Repeat Offender Of Petty Crimez.


The stuff for grownups that in a nutshell tells you how to hack your brain for better productivity will also tell you that aside from a messy desk and doing things backwards (well, doing things in a different way), to give and receive sarcasm is one of the best ways to promote creativity. (Caveat: Negative sarcasm however is to be avoided at all costs. The negative effects of giving as well as receiving a snarky put-down far outweigh any benefits, even for adults).

(I like. Safe is not only boring, it's uninspired. You can give a sharp knife to a monkey or a sushi chef trained in the preparation of fugu, and the results can be so tragically different as to be inconceivably of the very same tool. How freaking exciting is THAT? Risk-taking with a few boundaries (oxymoron alert) are soooo much fun. Besides - if you really think about it, very few things in life are well and truly "safe" if people don't know how to use them...)

This line in Smashmouth's All Star is a favourite:

"The ice we skate is getting pretty thin The water's getting warm so you might as well swim" - I like to tell Rockstar that you can go skate on a little thin ice if you know how to swim (ice gets thin when it gets warmer, ever thought of that? Every investment opportunity requires an entry point. But if you buy low, it's when lotsa other people are selling...)

But anyway sarcasm. Irony. And all the joy of speaking to your kids in something that sounds like English - it has all these words that sound the same - but means something so different than what nature intended.

It's not really cute now, is it? (pic frm )

Is that really cute as we know it? (pic frm

Some of the crap that kids watch entertainment our kids enjoy these days is pretty useful though:

pic from

Dis is art (and a great eg of a metaphor for the kids)- pic from

(This isn't sarcasm per se but I think it falls roughly in the same family. And it's hugely useful to help kids understand each other.) Drax is of an alien race who are "entirely literal," i.e. they do not understand metaphors (I am not kidding. Rocket the Racoon says as much in the first movie. "Nothing goes over my head" of course is a metaphor that oh look, is going right over his head now)

Then I found this - pic from

Then I found this - pic from (titled Drax Makes Positive Impact)

Speaking of Rocket:

pic from

Rocket is a genetically engineered military strategist and weapons specialist with klepto tendencies and insecurity issues that overshadow his having the highest IQ in the team... AND IT'S STILL A FREAKING RACCOON! - pic from

Talking Klepto Raccoon Gets "Issues" Dissected In Unlikely Headshrink Session On Board Space Pirate Ship. Despite being brilliant however, he's still a raccoon learning to be sarcastic (and illustrating it to kids along the way), ergo:

"Rocket: [about the Sovereign people] You know, they told me you people were conceited ... but that isn't true at all. [winks at Peter in front of the Sovereign leader, Ayesha] I'm using my wrong eye again, aren't I? I'm sorry, that was meant to be behind your back."

"Peter Quill: I was being sarcastic.

Rocket: Oh, no, you 're supposed to use a sarcastic voice. Now I look foolish."

..Y-up I have this theory that the people who write some of the material in comic books were supersmart kids... who grew up deciding to make lotsa money without the office job. I think this stuff doesn't receive enough erm, credit for its usefulness - kids enjoy watching it and it provides some openings for talking to them.

Here's another kids' movie character who explores some serious character issues:



This is how Forbes (yes the American business magazine because when mega-budget movies - that includes kiddie movies - hit the box office, it affects how the companies trade) describes the Lego Batman character:

"LEGO Batman is brash, self-centered, obsessed with his own fame and reputation, self-delusional with regard to his influence on Gotham City... and the Justice League, incapable of expressing vulnerability and emotional connections to other people, rude, overall emotionally stunted..."

..which leads to him discovering (while trying to steal something from Lego Superman) that he's being left out of the Justice League's party

..which leads to him discovering (while trying to steal something from Lego Superman) that he's being left out of the Justice League's anniversary party - pic from

(Like, whatever sticks, right?)

'Puter (Lego Batman calls his computer "'Puter"): You do have beautiful abs..

Lego Batman: It's my cross to bear. 

Fan: Batman, we love you! Batman: Thank you. I'm blushing super hard under the mask. (Said with the most deadpan Batman voice ever.)

And -

We saw this kid reading "Batman's Guide To Being Cool" on the train out in Kowloon - the lady he was with, I assume his mum, is carrying an Hermes bag and speaking to him in putonghua... and he's reading this hugely ironic thing (which obviously Rockstar also has haha)

On the train in Kowloon we saw this kid - with this well-dressed lady, I assume his mum, who is carrying an Hermes bag and speaking in putonghua - reading "Batman's Guide To Being Cool"!!

This is from Rockstar's copy

This is from Rockstar's copy (Lego Batman's recommendation for being a cool crime fighting machine: carry Electronics!) Epiphany: I Know Real Men Who Do This (But Maybe Not The Crime-Fighting Bit)

They mess with 'rents a lot too; Lego Batman speaks like this in the movie: "Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music. Dark, edgy music that makes your parents nervous."  "Don't tell me how to parent my child I just met." S-o Commissioner Gordon retires and - guess what? His daughter takes over, and -
Take that, Harvard (pic from Business Insider)

Take that, Harvard (pic from Business Insider)

But you laugh, the kids laugh, and the message(s) gets across (Lego Batman even acknowledges Alfred as his foster father, after several struggles that include a talking brick in the Phantom Zone named Phyllis showing him how disrespectful he's been.)

In contrast, look at this one (sorry, CBeebies - we love some of your other shows, especially the one with the very tall dinosaur guy, but -)


Watch this and you will never look at a vegetable the same way again <thunder clap>

Umm... Getting kids to like veggies is not necessarily getting them to eat veggies? There is a ..squash(?) that dreams of being a superhero. And all these talking creepy cute veggies with human-relatable traits, which I guess the script writers think will make kids want to be friends with them (the veggies that is). Except... how are you ever going to eat one. Especially with those eyeballs.

The kids pointed this out. Mr Bloom's Nursery makes you feel like a cannibal. (What am I supposed to do with that..)


Rockstar: (Some Snarky Sarcastic Thing Followed By -) Well? Well? So, Mum? You haven't heard a thing I said have you? 

Me: I'm trying to decide whether you're allowed to speak to me that way.

Rockstar: Oh, too far? 

Me: If you can check yourself and check with me then I guess we're good.

Rockstar: Oh phew. So you're not going to go all Crazy Mum on mah head.


Queen E: <smugly> Oh that was too far, Ko-ko. 

Me: You could try to sound less happy about that.

Queen E: I try, Mum-may. But.... I can't. It's too hard. 

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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