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Category: Relationships / Topics: Family Relationships Trust

Kid with Care

by Ken Potts

Posted: November 24, 2019

Deal openly, honestly with conflict

My Dad loved to kid. His five children soon learned that kidding was one of his favorite, and most frequent, ways of saying "I love you."

To this day, 46 years after his death, we can still remember those special family times when Dad found a particularly funny way to tease one or the other of us.

Actually, we've kept this family tradition alive with each other and with our own children.

We kids, now adults, still do more than a bit of kidding and teasing with each other. In each of our families the tradition continues as well. And though each of us and each of our families are unique, I can still pick out my Dad's contribution to the family verbal play that takes place whenever we get together.

As we've gotten older, however, we have also found that we missed something in our relationship with our father. We've realized that his kidding and teasing was too often the only way he knew how to say "I love you."

For whatever reason, he found it difficult to put his feelings into words. And sometimes we kids just needed to hear those words, to have him simply say "I love you" rather than have to hear it between the laughs.

We've also become aware that kidding and teasing was also the only way he knew how to tell us he was frustrated or angry with us.

Dealing openly and honestly with conflict, in fact, was a skill our father did not seem to have. And it has become one which each of his children has subsequently had to learn.

It's not that we kids would have welcomed a clearer expression of these feelings, but we would have at least learned more about how to deal with them. And if he had, in fact, developed some healthy conflict resolution skills, he could have passed these along to us and saved us all some remedial relational education.

There is yet a third thing we've learned about the kidding and teasing that was so much a part of our growing up.

Such verbal play can easily be misinterpreted as criticism or hostility. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in families where there wasn't any kidding, or where kidding actually was a mask for criticism or hostility.

Looks like what started out as a fond remembrance of Dad has wound up as a cautionary tale about the use and misuse of kidding and teasing.

It seems that 1.) when it takes the place of clear and frequent messages of love and affection, 2.) when it is a way to express criticism or hostility while avoiding healthy conflict resolution, or 3.) when it can be misinterpreted by the person being kidded or teased, it can be a less than positive part of family life.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy such humor in our lives together. It does mean, however, that we should kid with care.


Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of SamaraCare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Posted: November 24, 2019

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