Should you be using sarcasm as a parenting strategy?

As new parents, we read books about baby and child care, read about discipline strategies and considered the examples we wanted to set for our newborn offspring. Over time, however, some parenting strategies flew out the window and in flew some default behaviors from our adult lives. Behaviors like snark and sarcasm — tools of humor in the grown-up world — became de facto parenting strategies at home, whether we really considered them as such or not. And then it even seemed like fun!

Mom talking to teen

As an adult, snark and sarcasm are in heavy use in our lives. Sometimes it’s appropriate to direct at and teach our children, and sometimes it’s not. It’s not too late, however, to reconsider the use of snark and sarcasm in our parenting. Maybe they will stay — and maybe they won’t.

It seemed like fun

In our efforts to differentiate ourselves as parents from the parenting generations that came before us, we necessarily go for some different approaches. It’s part of the transition of generations, constantly looking for a different — and hopefully better — way. Our parents did things differently than their parents, too. The increased use of snark and sarcasm in parenting seems to be part of our generation’s reaction to the parenting generation that came before us. And it seems like fun! Really! Kids with a wacky sense of humor just like mom and dad?! Woo!

But is it the right thing to do? Do the kids really understand the snark and sarcasm and are they learning the kind of respectful interactions we hope for? Is it really going to be fun for the long term?

Humor is important

Yes, humor is important in life. How many times have you said, “If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry?” While not everything in life is funny, humor does get us through. Finding humor in serious situations can balance the heavy emotions that come with life. As such, it’s something you likely want to instill in your child. But is snark and sarcasm the right way to do it?

Snark and sarcasm are rather dark forms of humor. While funny on some levels, they can reveal deeper, darker emotions — which aren’t funny at all. Sometimes they are just a mask for meanness. It’s kind of like the difference between “ha-ha” funny and “cringe” funny. Is the snark and sarcasm true humor or just framed as humor?

Right back at you

For all your efforts at instilling humor in your kids, and for your use of snark and sarcasm in parenting, remember this: it’s going to come right back at you, and particularly in the adolescent years. How is going to feel? How does it feel?

There will be moments in your parenting life when what you have taught will be thrown back at you full-force and plain as day. The day your child throws some of that snark and sarcasm back in your face may feel a tad sharper than you expected. Adolescents in particular seem capable of honing that sarcasm dagger to eerie precision. And you will know exactly where your child learned it.

It’s never too late to adjust your parenting. Reflect on your use of snark and sarcasm in your parenting style and make some adjustments if necessary. Humor is important, yes, but it needs to be learned and used appropriately. Snark and sarcasm can even be a part of it if used very, very carefully.

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