By Debra Collins, Family therapist
My fifth-grader has gotten so she talks back and makes smart or sarcastic remarks whenever asked to do anything. It is so hard to ask her to do anything, knowing there will be an argument to get her to do it without any mouthing and asking over and over.
A fifth-grader may enjoy being one of the oldest kids in their school, at the same time fearing becoming the youngest in middle school. It could be she is trying on new roles at home where it is "safer to act out."
Sarcasm is a way that people show their annoyance, anger or frustration, and their comments often have an intended victim. Since you only mention that this behavior is happening at home and with you, I suspect you are getting the brunt of her "growing pains."
This would be a good time to review if your relationship is changing to reflect her desire for more independence and input. Have her participate in a new list of responsibilities and expectations that you have of one another. Her sarcasm could be her way of telling you that you that she wants a more age-appropriate relationship with you.
It is important to model good communication skills. Examine if your family is more prone to using indirect communication such as humor, sarcasm, or silence. Some use is not harmful, but it sounds like you and your daughter are not feeling respected. Working together to be more empathic and clear and direct might allow both of you an opportunity to better understand one another.
Children and teens get a steady diet of media depicting sarcasm as a common communication style. It is not unusual to hear children using sarcasm regularly with both adults and their peers. It would be useful to explore with your daughter how this might be affecting her relationships and help her to become more discerning.
It is easier to not resort to lecturing or nagging if you remain open and curious about what your daughter is attempting to convey. You might also want to suggest that the teacher have a classroom discussion on sarcasm and its impact on others.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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