Monday, January 24, 2011

Imperfect Parenting: You Hurt Me.

First, I want to preface this by saying how much I love my family. I love my parents, and my sister and two brothers have a place in my heart that will never be lost. I was blessed with a phenomenally unique childhood, full of both more love and more pain than most kids in America experience. Both have strengthened me, and I am blessed.

I have recently realized that there is no 'normal' or 'to be desired' childhood. Instead, God gives every child a wildly different life for a purpose, and we are the ones who choose to make it our downfall or our platform. It is what we choose to do with our childhood as an adult that makes it 'good' or 'bad.'

My dad loves his wife more than anything else. I admire him for how well he takes care of my mom, and that he gave me more hours in the first 10 years of my life than most girls get from their father in their entire life. I hope that my husband adores his daughters as much as my father adored me.

In every family, though, there are a few things that drive deep rifts - some are flashing neon signs, and some are entirely invisible.

In our family, sarcasm is one of these things.

Sarcasm is defined by Princeton as "witty language used to convey insults or scorn." Another definition is, "a form of irony that attacks a person or belief through harsh and bitter remarks that often mean the opposite of what they say."

Note the difference between sarcasm, and humor: "a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter."

I despise sarcasm. It bites, and it wears at a child's spirit. The young men and women who have been on the receiving end of sarcasm have visible scars. I can see it. To me, sarcasm is like pulling a rug out from a toddlers feet and laughing as he falls.

Are you familiar with the term, 'cognitive dissonance?' It is a psychological term that describes the mental and emotional tension a person experiences when they simultaneously accept two contradictory truths or emotions. We don't need scientists and psychologists to tell us that inconsistency is harmful to children, but they've proved it anyway.

Children by nature love to make their parents happy. They love to make them laugh. They love to be the focus of positive attention. Children thrive in their parents' pleasure. But introduce physical or emotional pain at the same time, and it wrecks a child's heart. Whether or not you as a parent think the pain is valid is entirely irrelevant. Pain is pain, and your child is hardwired a certain way by the God of the Universe, and it is your job to love that child through it.

I Corinthians 13:6 says, 'love always protects.' When you love someone, you will do your best to protect their heart. Always. The definition of protect does not include poking fun with the intention of manning up your son or daughter.

Ephesians 4:29 says, "do not let any unhealthy talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, so that it may benefit those who listen." I am no counselor, pastor, or teacher - but in my opinion, the phrase 'according to their needs' is intensely overlooked. If your child is soft-hearted, sensitive, and acutely tuned to your words, know that is it a gift given to him by the same Being that made you. I don't care if that doesn't fit into your definition of masculinity. God designed him that way for a purpose you do not yet understand. And you have been directed to say nothing to that little one unless it laces his heart with love - according to his needs.

Dear men, it doesn't matter how your father did or didn't raise you. And dear women, you have special access to your son's heart. Together, I beg you, build your son into a man by way of love, encouragement, confidence, pride, and validation.

Dear men, your daughter's heart is softer than you know. Dear women, tell your daughters they are beautiful and valuable. We need to learn to accept approval from not just men. Together, I beg you, to build your daughter into a woman by way of love, encouragement, confidence, pride, and validation.

My heart breaks when my 19 year old brother winces in pain from my dad's poorly chosen jokes, and I can feel an invisible coating of numbness slip over my heart when my dad laughs at my expense. There are terrible truths that my sister has accepted about herself, driven into her heart like knives and imprinted into her mind by sarcasm.

I tell you this to ask you to think twice about what you say - three times, if necessary. Separate sarcasm from humor in your mind, and go read my post, Your Jokes Suck: Why I Won't Date You. Because I know that if you aren't a parent yet, you'll one day catch yourself treating your children the way you treat your friends and your significant other, right now.

Protect people with your words.

And when they are hurt by your words, track down some humble pie, and listen to their hearts. They will give you the clues that will enable you to build them up - not tear them down - according to their needs.

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PS. Are you a parent who is guilty as charged? You now have the opportunity to teach your child an invaluable lesson - acknowledging that you aren't perfect. Tell us that you are sorry, and you'll try to do better. If you can say this to your child's face, you just gave your child the tools to build healthy relationships with his or her future friends, co-workers, spouse, and children. We desperately need you to teach us how to apologize humbly. Please do.

PPS. Do you have scars from sarcasm? “This is what the LORD says: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, for whom no one cares.’" Jeremiah 30. Also, “When she cries out to me, I will hear her, for I am compassionate.” Exodus 22:27

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Han said...

On Wednesday at Connect Group we were talking about how girls need to be told that they are beautiful. My friend (Karen) is pregnant with her third child. Her and her hubby are going to be parents to another girl. Her hubby sat in Connect Group and commented about he tries to remember to tell his girls (his wife included in that) that they are beautiful - it was so sweet. Then our friend Steve agreed with this. Steve is a single guy who for now has been called by God to be single but I know that one day he's going to find a girlie who is soooo right for him lol.

The media spend so much time beating girls down for being too thin, too fat, too short, too tall etc etc that we need to stand up and tell our girlfriends that they are pretty that the media is wrong and THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL. I wore skirts quite a lot last week as I was taking the bus and it kept raining - I got so many nice comments about dressing a bit girlie lol. It was kinda embarrassing - but why was I embarrassed to receive a positive uplifting comment?!

Caitlyn said...

I loveeee this. There is a lot of sarcasm in our friend group, as you know, but using it with a child is honestly harmful. My parents actually weren't sarcastic with me (well my dad was, but he wasn't a huge part of my life). I learned sarcasm from my peers I think. My step dad was pretty verbally abusive, but I don't really think that's where I got the sarcasm from (although others may think differently, I can't really say for sure).
I hope that when I have children I'm not like that. Sarcasm is funny at times I think with your peers, but children don't understand it. To them it is just an insult and the last thing I think you should do is intentionally make a child feel stupid. You're supposed to build them up! Make them feel good about themselves. That's what parents are for. I think that as a parent you should be your child's friend, but I don't think that you should insult your child like a lot of their peers will even in a joking way.
There are times when I think that even the sarcasm in a group of friends can get out of control. Even if it doesn't seem like someone's feelings are hurt, I think that sometimes they are.
Anyway, I really liked your post haha

~April~ said...

Great post! My hubby & I used to hang out with people who lived and breathed sarcasm, so naturally we picked up on it. It was crazy how negative we became. But thankfully God called us out on it & we vowed to change. Nowadays when I get the urge to be sarcastic, I remind myself that the subconscious can’t take a joke.

Abby said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Lauren. This is an issue I've recently started to recognize in my own family. It's tough recognizing family brokenness in any form. Thanks for your exhortation. It makes me afraid, too, though of what kind of imperfect parenting I'll inflict on my own children one day.

kaleighsomers said...


This was so hard to read because I know this story all too well and my heart's invested in it. What you said about our childhood being somewhere between normal and abnormal? So true. I'm starting to believe there's an almost inverse relationship between how we are raised/our early experiences and how we live our life. People are bound to either love the way their life started and try to follow down that path or steer far, far away from it. For me, and it sounds like for you to, it's sort of a mix of the two.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I only wish the right people could read it. But that's another story entirely.

Becca said...

This is so great! So true.
Yesterday morning the sermon at church was on Criticism Gone Bad. One of the comments (during the "The Result of Criticism: A Barren Life" section/point) the pastor made was about sarcasm. He brought up Michal criticizing David for dancing (1 Sam 6) and how her sarcasm cost her. And Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12, being upset with God... And then last night I had to bring it up with the girls in my small group, because they were being sarcastic with each other, and wanted to know, "Yeah, but what if you're friends and your friend knows you're kidding??" ...No. It doesn't matter. Words have a HUGE impact on people. I know that I need to watch my mouth more than I do. I'm working on it. This was definitely a great reminder!
Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. -Proverbs 4:23 :)

tasha said...

oh my word. i love this. <3 truly. you are an amazing, amazing writer, love.

ms.composure said...

i came across your blog randomly and i LOVE it. if you dont mind me asking what kind of camera do you use? i have been shopping for a camera for some time now and cant decide on which one to get!

Cara said...

Lauren Lauren Lauren,
to be honest I haven't read this post yet, BUT, I wanted to get a hold of you. So Max Dubinsky is coming along to meet you and talk to you about everything? AH is it okay for me to be jealous of that? I think he is a magnificent writer and so raw and open, just as you are. I find you two very similar. Anyway! Just wanted to let you know I'm thinking of you sister.


EmmaJewel said...

My son CJ has Asperger's, so sarcasm doesn't really click with him. He's learning to hear the difference between sarcasm, irony, humor and tricks.

I use sarcasm at times to make him laugh.
"You're fired." he'll say to me.
I respond with, "I KNOW! I make you brush your teeth! I make you shower! I make you flush! How horrid I am!"
I admit it, though, when I get frustrated I get sarcastic, I am aware of it and I am working to think before I talk.
I'm getting there.

Vicki Fourie said...

Wow. This really hits close to home. It's exactly the same way with our family.

Thank you for your words of healing.

Anonymous said...

Love, love, love it. If you had an overly critical parent, you know that your parents words can bring death or life. And it's so important to give your kids a soft place to fall. They get beaten up by the world enough as it is. Thank you for these wise words! ~Amy

Kiersten Johnson said...

I know I am half a year late but man do I ever relate. My parents make "jokes" at my expense. I have asked them to stop and they tell me to lighten up and relax. So now to me jokes are not fun and I despise them greatly. I wish my parents would recognize what they are doing to me. But I will never be able to get them to stop so I now watch what I say or even when I talk to them. It is so hard and sad to seperate myself from my parents but it is too painful to be around them!

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