Children's understanding of ironic comments depends on a number of factors, including the level of cognitive language development and skills called "mentalists." They need to acquire them to be able to interpret the double meanings, however, parents and teachers can help children understand irony and sarcasm little by little. In Guiainfantil.com We give you the keys to keep in mind.
To understand irony and sarcasm, it is necessary to interpret the interlocutor's intentions and words within a context, which requires a specific development of language and thought. It is because of that, at certain ages, children do not grasp double meanings, irony or sarcasm in language.
Nor do children and people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or with language and communication disorders pick up on these "intentions" in language. Let's say you tend to make a literal interpretation of words without looking at the facial expression and intonation of the person speaking.
To help children understand irony and sarcasm, we must first know what each of them means and implies. So:
- The irony
It is an expression that implies something contrary to what it is really intended to say, usually as a mockery in disguise.
- The sarcasm
According to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), sarcasm is the "bloody mockery, scathing and cruel irony with which someone or something is offended or mistreated." In short, sarcasm seeks to ridicule, humiliate or insult the other person through irony.
For children to understand and recognize irony and sarcasm, certain language and thinking skills must be developed, such as pragmatics and mental skills. We analyze each of them:
Pragmatics is an indispensable skill for interpersonal communication, not only for the speaker but also for the listener. Marc Monfort, defines this ability as "the ability to understand the intentions of others when they speak and to express their own, in an effective way and with a management of the code appropriate to the context".
- Mentalist abilities
Mentalist abilities, on the other hand, form a conceptual system that will serve to understand, interpret, predict and be able to explain both one's own behavior and that of others. Such ability would be a prerequisite for understanding the social environment and being socially competent.
To detect and understand sarcasm, as in irony, you must also understand the intentions of the interlocutor within a specific context. This task requires the use of sophisticated social thinking and theory of mind.
Mentalistic and pragmatic skills they develop little by little in children. It is after approximately 5 years when children are able to identify lies, ironies and jokes, but it does not mean that all children understand them or that at this age they are fully developed. These skills improve over the years.
Since not all children grasp irony and sarcasm, we must be cautious with its use in children, for several reasons. On the one hand, we can hurt children's feelings and self-esteem. On the other, we provide a model of communication and relationship with others based on mockery and masking of what we really want to say. Using irony and sarcasm is not bad, but since not all children pick up on these nuances, we can baffle them and even hurt feelings.
Parents and teachers can teach and stimulate in children the skills they need to improve their understanding of language. For children to catch irony and sarcasm will be important:
1. That they understand the opposite concept.
2. Explain what irony and sarcasm consist of, give them examples and make them explicit on a day-to-day basis. If, for example, we drink something that we do not like as a medicine and we say ... "mmmm that delicious" and we accompany it with a facial expression of displeasure, we can help children understand that we say it with irony.
3. Explain that sometimes ironies can be hurtful for the other person, so you have to know when it is appropriate to say them.
4. Also work the idea of lies and white lies.
5. Learn to recognize when they say an irony with humor or with bad intention.
In short, to understand irony and sarcasm on the part of children, it will be necessary that they have acquired adequate development of certain language and thinking skills. Therefore, on the one hand, we must be cautious with its use in children, since they do not always understand it and we can hurt their feelings. But, on the other hand, we can little by little teach how to differentiate and distinguish the ironies in their day-to-day lives.
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