The fact that a behavior is common doesn’t make it acceptable. It’s a mistake to view sarcasm as inevitable with our kids. You can easily (well, perhaps not too easily) stop sarcasm in your child by following these three steps.
1. Establish a clear rule that sarcasm, insults and disrespect are not allowed in your family. You'll need to be very specific with your children about exactly what that means. Give lots of examples of expressions that are not allowed in your family. Do more than just establish a rule but also discuss with your children how such language can be hurtful to other people and is an ineffective way to communicate.
2. Enforce your rules. Lots of parents have rules but few have consistent consequences. If you want to create an atmosphere of positive communication in your family, then you have to take action when your children speak in offensive ways. This has got to be more than a verbal reprimand, but something that really matters to your child. Repeated offenses might result in restricting television, computer or cell-phone usage or something else that is important to your child.
3. Teach alternatives. You cannot punish away cynicism and insults. These behaviors are symptoms of kids who don't know how to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Here's the best way to teach kids these skills: Ask lots of open-ended questions to provoke discussion. Don't let this degenerate into an interrogation of your child. You'll need to be willing to share your thoughts, as well. This should begin when your child is 3, not 13.
Next week: What childhood disorder affects one in six children — and is increasing?
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at