Why It's Important to Avoid Using Sarcasm with Your Teen

Avoid using sarcasm when you are talking to your teen.
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It can be tempting to use sarcasm with teens. After all, some of their behavior seems to invite a sarcastic comment. But a flippant response won't help the situation.

Even if you meant to be funny, your teen may not think it’s a joke. Instead, your child may feel like you’re poking fun or teasing. It

Your teen may also feel like you’re minimizing the situation or that you don’t care. And that can discourage your teen from talking to you about important issues with you.

What Sarcasm Sounds Like

Here’s an example of how sarcasm is likely to stop the conversation before it ever really gets started:

  • Teen: “Dad, I was only two minutes late for class today and my teacher gave me a detention. So now, I have to stay after school on Wednesday!”
  • Dad: “Maybe next time you’ll walk faster.”
  • Teen: “It’s not that. I walk as fast as I can. I just can’t get to my locker and get my books and get to class all within three minutes.”
  • Dad: “Poor baby. That sounds terrible. Just three minutes to pick up your math book and get to class.”

Other Examples of Sarcasm

  • A teen says he didn’t get his homework done on time today and his mother says, “That’s a big surprise.”
  • A teen tells his parents that he plans to try and get a summer job and his father says, “Hopefully you’ll work harder at a job than you do at cleaning your room.”
  • A teen tells her mother she wants to apply for a scholarship. Her mother says, “Right, because people really want to hand over money to a C student.”
  • As parents review a teen’s report card that has less than stellar grades, the mother says, “Well isn’t that just terrific!”
  • A teen says he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. His mother says, “I can’t trust you to go to the store. I’m sure people will really trust you to travel to the moon.”

The Problems with Sarcasm

There are many ways sarcasm can be used.

If it’s become a habit for you, you may not even be aware that you’re using it with your teen.

Sarcasm will hurt your teen’s feelings and it’s a sure way to end the conversation. Although you might just be trying to use humor to lighten the situation, be careful how you use it.

It’s not about how you meant it; it’s all about how your teen interprets it. If your teen is likely to think you’re making fun of him, refrain from using humor or sarcasm. It can hurt your relationship.

How to Curb the Sarcasm

Instead of giving a sarcastic response, try to take a deep breath. Validate your teen's feelings and address the issue at hand with warmth and genuine empathy.

If you have genuine concerns about your teen’s behaviors or ideas, express your concern in a direct manner.  It can encourage your teen to continue talking to you, rather than shutting down. 

Sarcasm isn't likely to lead to behavior change. Instead, it could damage your relationship.

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