Sarcasm and Teenagers: A Guide for Parents and Teens Communication

Deborah Gilboa, M.D.

It’s a real milestone when our children get to the age that they can make us laugh by what they say on purpose! Often with smaller children we laugh at what they say by accident, and they are pleased but uncertain about what was funny and why. As children get to older elementary school they learn skills and life lessons that they turn into humor.

Often older kids and teens emulate adults and use sarcasm to make a joke, or make a point. This is a valuable skill and shouldn’t be squashed. Neither should we let it run rampant over conversations and people!

It’s important to show a teen that you value his humor and intelligence but want him to learn when this is and is not appropriate to use. Many ‘tweens and teens try out sarcasm and some have a real flair for it! Also, it may be part of acceptable joking around behavior in your family.

Like any edgy conversation (teasing, joking, even swearing), teens need to learn when and when NOT to engage. He may use sarcasm really successfully with friends and to good effect, but needs to know to leave it in the hallway at school or he could have some big trouble.

With any teenage behavior change, it works better to be very clear about the goal. First talk to your partner. Is it OK with both of you that he practices sarcasm at home sometimes? Hash this out just grownups first. You may decide he is not mature enough yet to use this only on the “right” occasions so you want him to stop (in your hearing) all the time. Remember that he is unlikely to stop entirely. You will teach him important life lessons if you choose to guide him about when to use this, instead of forbidding the behavior entirely.

Now sit with him for a few minutes (and your co-parent if possible) and tell him that you really appreciate his humor and smarts but need to teach him the skill of when it is and isn’t OK to use sarcasm when speaking to an adult. Decide (with your teen’s help) on a nonverbal cue that you can use if he is being smart-alecky instead of smart, like a hand on his arm or (if he isn’t a toucher right now) grabbing your own ear lobe for a minute. Then he has the opportunity for a conversational do-over, meaning he can express the same idea but more respectfully. If he can start again without the edge in his words or voice, you’ll continue the conversation as if nothing happened.

When you are talking to him about this, be clear with him what the consequence will be if he does not take the do-over chance but continues to be disrespectful. You may automatically deny his request if he can’t speak respectfully. He may miss his next social outing. He may be excused from the table even if he is still hungry (this one really bothers teen boys!).

In this way you are not stepping on his creativity and humor, but you are requiring respectful communication and helping him learn how and when he can joke. Also, he has the chance to be a good example for any younger sister or brother so that you don’t hear smart-alecky teenage stuff from the mouths of babes!

Want to learn more? This article is only part of a workshop offered by Dr. Gilboa about how to raise kids you respect and admire. Dr. Gilboa is a board certified family doctor and mother of 4 (children! Don’t let their behavior fool you). For more information about speaking engagements and to ask questions about your child, contact Dr. G through her website and click on Bring Dr. G to You or email her at

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Parenting Tips – Gentle Ways to Discipline Bad Behavior

By Julian Anthony

The three best parent tips that can help you to utilize gentle ways to discipline bad behavior are all tied together. They are not easy but they make parenting much, much easier in and of themselves. They are also character development actions which make you feel better about yourself after you do them.

The Three Parenting Tips to Gently Discipline Bad Behavior

1. Personalize the situation with compassion before you react or respond. Told you they were not going to be easy. Be extremely patient and ask them the reason why they misbehaved in an understanding tone. You must be on their side in the beginning especially if you want to convince them to tell you the truth.

2. Use compassion even when you are doling out the discipline. This one is a bit difficult at first but once you get the hang of it,it actually becomes sort of pleasing in a strange way. When you are telling them that they are now not going to be able to watch their favorite t.v. show because they have misbehaved, do so in a loving voice and give them a kiss.

At first they will be so confused and distraught they will not know what to do. We have all seen it before the loving mom dishing out punishments with that optimistic sunshine voice of love. They do it because it works. So try this out and make a habit of it.

3. Understand everything from all angles FIRST before you discipline them. Then explain it to them and make sure they know or see all those other angles. This will help them to understand the reason for the punishments and the ‘Why’ of their misbehavior.

I am almost certain that if you have children who misbehave you have tried these all before and to no avail. Try them again only this time focus on Your behavior at the moment you are disciplining them and ask yourself these questions:

Are you emotional?

Are you being completely understanding of the situation by being as objective as you can?

Are you understanding? By that is meant are you understanding what they are going through as well as what they are putting others through?

Also make sure you know the whole of the situation. In many cases our children are really unaware of what kind of behavior is not acceptable and at the very least they may not know the Why of it. This is easy to forget and hard to remember when we are caught up in the moment.

So as a lasting never fail parenting tip to help you discipline your children with gentle understanding and the compassion of true sympathy; Always Wait! This is the absolute best working tip to parenting misbehavior. Wait ten minutes after the incident. Longer if you need to; in fact this can work to your advantage as they are anticipating the worst they are forced to think about what it is they have done.

Then take ten breathes and think about the best punishment that is appropriate and will help them to learn from the experience. Effective parenting tips are always the best ways to reach your children and really cause the kinds of change we want. Always remember that all human beings respond to gentleness and we all pay more attention and respect to level-headed leaders as opposed to hot-headed authority.

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For Your Free (no action required) Presentation filled with scientific methods that will get your child to listen to you and cooperate the first time check out this site @ Effectively Gentle Discipline [] for highly spirited children. It Can be made much easier with the right help to achieve a positive change in behavior.

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