How to Deal With Sarcastic Teens


When teens feel stressed or angry, they might resort to sarcasm -- an unsophisticated, ineffective and often offensive way of communicating. While your child's lack of self-control might tempt you to fire back one of your own sarcastic barbs, it's more productive to focus on your role as a mentor. It's your job to address the sarcasm and teach your teen less abrasive, more successful ways to communicate.

Sarcasm Directed at You

  • Address your teen's sarcastic remarks consistently, suggests James Lehman, who has a master's degree in social work, on his website "Empowering Parents." Lehman believes that if you let the sarcasm slide at times but address it in other instances, there's a greater risk of your teen repeating the behavior. (See Reference 1)

  • Respond in a clear, straightforward manner. For example, say, "Don't talk to me that way; I don't like it." Or, if you want to explore the root cause of your teen's sarcasm, identify the trigger -- chores, homework -- and ask: "Why do you respond sarcastically whenever I remind you to do your chores?" If your teen denies sarcasm, say, "OK, then I expect you to do your chores without comment." (See Reference 1)

  • Walk away and remove your teen's power over you if the sarcasm continues. If you stay in the same room with your teen, you risk getting pulled into an argument. (See Reference 1) If you stay and your teen continues to speak to you sarcastically, enact logical consequences, such as removing or restricting a privilege for a short period of time. (See Reference 2)

Sarcasm Directed at Others

  • Ask your teen to speak with you privately to avoid embarrassing her and escalating the situation. Reserve your intervention for times when you believe her sarcasm is demeaning or abusive to another person, the situation is escalating or if the other person does not know how to deflect the comments. (See Reference 3) Otherwise, allow your teen and the other person to resolve the situation on their own.

  • Tell your teen firmly that she has a choice if the sarcasm continues: either stop being sarcastic or remove herself from the situation. (See Reference 3)

  • Monitor for a few minutes if your teenager doesn't leave the situation. If she continues to use sarcastic language, tell her that she must remove herself. Deliver an additional logical consequence, if you feel it's warranted. An additional consequence -- loss of a privilege, for example -- might be helpful.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are the frequent target of your teen's sarcasm, child psychologist Dr. Lisa Medoff suggests in an article on the website that you tell him you don't like the way the communication has been between you lately. Let him know you would like to spend time with him doing something he would like. Ask him to refrain from making sarcastic remarks during your time together. Make it clear that if he uses sarcasm, you'll end the activity and try again another time. (See Reference 3)
  • Consider your own behavior. Do you use sarcasm in your interactions with others? If so, remember the influence you have over your teen and adjust your behavior accordingly. (See Reference 3)
  • If you find yourself so angry or frustrated at your teen's sarcasm that you can't trust yourself to respond calmly and rationally, take a deep breath and count to 10 silently before giving your response. (See Reference 3)


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