Q: My 11-year-old son has a sarcastic sense of humour and often makes snide and insulting comments to his friends. He’s starting to get cut off socially because of his behaviour. We’ve tried talking to him about it, asking him how he’d feel if his friends spoke to him that way, to no avail. How can I teach him empathy and get him to stop cutting up his peers?
A: Where did he learn this manner of speaking? Often, without our realizing it, our children mimic us. If that’s the case, you might have to curb your own sarcasm for a while. To help him change his style of speaking, first get his permission to help, then when you hear him being sarcastic, offer him another option. You might say: “How else could you say that?” When he comes home from school, ask him about his day. If he mentions trouble with his friends, walk him through what he said and then teach him a friendlier way to communicate. Be calm and non-judgmental. He’s not trying to offend anyone — he just doesn’t know what else to say.