The Reason Why Teaching Kids Idioms and Clichés Is Important

I have struggled very hard to not write about how our youngest child is causing major problems to the dynamic of our family. I’m not about to do it now because it could get very intense and I might end up writing things that I would regret writing. But let me say this much; that youngest son of ours is a pain in the backside.

While I won’t go into detail about this, I want to mention just one thing that he does as it sets up the next part of the story. This story is actually about teaching your children clichés and idioms, but this personal story is relevant to that.

The meaning of Idiom thanks to Google
The meaning of Idiom thanks to Google

Our youngest son is very manipulative and controlling, and to some aspects, he runs the household. And sure it’s easy to just give in and let him have his way because that takes an hour long tantrum and reduces it to about 30 seconds of begging, but often times, the thing that he wants is at the expense of his older brother having it, or being able to do what we have promised him that he can do.

My wife and I know how to get around some of this using a bit of reverse psychology, but our 7yo son struggles to remember to do this sometimes. And where the reverse psychology technique needs to be used in our household more than ever is with the bedtime routine. The 4yo is the one who determines which parent puts each child to bed.

There was a time when both kids wanted Mummy to put them both to bed. There was a time when each child wanted the opposite parent than what was logistically possible on that given night (with either my wife needing to do the quick routine before going out, or me needing to do that before going to band practise), and now, both kids are being a little anti-Mummy and very pro-Daddy which means the battle is over me putting them to bed.

Even though there is the pro-Daddy situation going on, and even during those times when neither Mummy nor Daddy were the favourite, the 4yo has always based who he wants to have put him to bed on who his brother requests. If the 7yo asks for me to put him to bed then the 4yo shouts out;

“No, I want Daddy to put me to bed.”

And if my if the 7yo wants my wife to put him to bed the 4yo shouts out;

“No, I want Mummy to put me to bed.”

So then, what we do is, if we know that the older one wants me to put him to bed, we get him to ask for Mummy to put him to bed and then the 4yo will “steal” her from his big brother and the 7yo gets his way. For the last four nights however, even though the older one desperately wants me to put him to bed, he has forgotten that he’s supposed to ask for Mummy, and he has yelled out for me to put him to bed and then the 4yo has said;

“No, I want Daddy to put me to bed.”

Last night however, after having a friend and her kids over for dinner, the normal bedtime routine was thrown out the window and I simply walked into the older one’s bedroom while my wife took the younger one to bed. Finally, after four nights of asking for me to put him to bed, the 7yo got his way without asking. He picked One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss to read to me last night. He was about two thirds of the way through it when his door flung open and in stomped his little brother. Not knowing where my wife was or what she was up to (she’s been doing a lot of work at home at night at the moment), I suggested to the little one that he jumps into bed and listens to his brother read the rest of the book.

About a page later my wife came in.

“Okay, I’ll take over listen to him read and you put the little one to bed, “she said.

I looked back at the older son’s face and tears started welling in his eyes. This always happens, he always misses out. I protested and asked her to put the little one back to bed, but as she could see that the book was almost finished which meant getting the big one to go to sleep would be very easy, she told me to take the 4yo back to his room. The torment on his face, the cries of his own protest, and the anguish of the whole situation was breaking my heart as much as it was breaking his. But I played ball.

I was the first to wake up this morning and like every morning I came down to make myself a coffee. As I was sitting there enjoying my cup of Joe, the 7yo woke up. He walked over to me in the lounge room and asked;

“Can you make Mummy a cup of coffee?”

I walked into the kitchen to put the kettle on and as I did he followed. He still had a sad look on his face so I sat down on the kitchen floor and pulled him onto my lap and gave him the biggest hug.

“I’m sorry about last night mate. Your brother is impossible sometimes. I hate how he runs this family, and I hate how he always gets what he wants and you miss out. But he’ll get his one day…”

He then looked at me with a puzzled look on his face.

“Get his what Daddy?”

“Get his comeuppance.”

Still puzzled.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“He’ll get his just desserts. Wait, you probably don’t know that one yet either. Karma will come back to bite him.

“What’s Karma?”

I could see that I was getting nowhere using these idioms no matter how cliché they are, so I explained it in as simple terms as I could that one day his brother will get a fitting punishment for being the naughty little boy that he is without showing remorse after he gets in trouble from us.

But it made me think. How do we learn idioms?

The meaning of Cliché according to Google.
The meaning of Cliché according to Google.

Within the preamble to this post, and within the body of the story I used some idioms and I am sure that you are quite familiar with these. And many have become quite cliché. You know that when I said that the younger child is a “pain in the backside” I’m not suggesting that I actually have physical pain in my buttocks, but using an idiom like that paints a better picture than a bland and direct statement.

Within my blog writing, within my song writing and even in my every day speech I have a ship load of idioms and a truck load of clichés that I will lean on to express myself or colour my language. While writing this, like I do for many of my posts, I did a little research. Even though I am familiar with both terms, I went to to make sure that I was 100% up to speed with the difference between an idiom and a cliché. As they state on that website;

Idioms need to be learned, and people learning English need to build a vocabulary of idioms.

And although one might think of a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language and is learning English when you read that statement, the same can be said for children. Children need to build a vocabulary of idioms and learn all of those old clichés. I have often thrown sayings such as “It takes two to tango” when one boy tells on the other for fighting, or “you’ve hit the nail on the head” when they say or do something right, but unless they know how idioms work, they must think I’m crazy when neither were dancing, nor wielding a hammer or that proverbial nail.

When I was a child my parents had plenty of reference books on the bookshelf in our lounge room. One of my favourite sets of books was the Reader’s Digest Dictionary (in two parts; A-K, and L-Z), and a third book which included a section about Mythology (especially Greek and Roman gods), a section about different sports and their terms, and the bulk of this book was topic involving our language including a list of idioms and clichés. I remember reading how “a stitch in time saves nine” and what that meant. I remember reading how we should “let sleeping dogs lie” and what that meant as well. Just a note on that; both the literal and figurative meaning behind that ring true (source; being a dog owner who accidentally woke an angry sleeping dog).
I have always been interested in sayings like these, and I was brought up in a household and a community who used idioms quite regularly. But for now, what I need to do is explain these as I go along so the kids will have a greater understanding of our language as a whole. Not only that, but as their language skills develop, they need to be taught how to use idioms so that they don’t become cliché, and they don’t end up mixing up there idioms so that they are made to look like a fool.
I worked with a guy who was the master of mixing his idioms. I really wish he was doing this for jocular purposes, but sadly, he just didn’t know his saying all that well. He would say things like;
“Putting all our chips in one basket.”
“The house of cards should all into place.”
“That’s like the stone calling the pebble black.”
 Yes, facepalm exactly...Yes, facepalm exactly…

So, if you find yourself using these sayings around you kids, be mindful that you might be saying something that they don’t understand. And with some of our idioms using some archaic terms and expressions, children can easily be lost with what you are saying.
Do you use a lot of idioms and clichés? What’s your favourite ones?

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