Sarcasm – Is It Ever OK?

So you clicked over to read something that might help you be a better father. You must be the best dad in the world …

We all know that everyone absolutely adores sarcasm, right? It is one of those wonderful character traits that kids love about their dad and wives love about their husbands. Don’t you wholeheartedly agree?


Dad, do you have a sarcastic sense of humor? What would your kids say about the way you talk to them?

Some sarcasm is downright mean: sharp, cutting, and wounding. That’s poisonous in families. Sometimes it’s hard to believe what parents say to their kids.

Sarcasm – Is It Ever OK?More common are the snippy remarks and comments a dad might say almost under his breath. It’s not an intentional attack. You might even view it as a harmless little joke or observation; but I believe you would be mistaken.

For example, your eight-year-old son says he wants to do better at helping around the house. And you say, “Oh, like that’s gonna happen.” Or you’re in the van with the whole family and you hear a news story about someone who was dishonest. “Hmm,” you say as you tilt your head toward the back seat, “I wonder if we know anyone like that.”

Maybe your child talks about a new privilege or something special he would like to do. And you say, “Sure … as soon as you get straight A’s”—knowing full well that that’s above his abilities. Or, your teenage daughter is standing with the refrigerator door open, trying to make a decision. You walk by and deliver a not-so witty or welcome comment: “More sweets for the princess?”

Maybe your son is short for his age, and you’ve endowed him with a special nickname to remind him on a regular (and painful) basis. Or your daughter puts on makeup to go somewhere, and you make a comment that includes the word “circus.” We could all probably come up with hundreds of examples.

Dads, is there ever a place for sarcasm with our kids?

I certainly don’t want to discourage humor or joking or other fun between you and your kids, but don’t miss the point: Take a hard look at the way you talk to your children—including comments you think are harmless. Are they really? Dads, our words carry great power— much more than we realize. And that includes the jokes and passing remarks.

So, is there ever a place for sarcasm? Am I making too much of this?

Sure, there are some sarcastic comments that truly are harmless; people can make jokes at their own expense using sarcasm and it can be very funny. But I hope we can all be extra sensitive with our children—listening closely to how we talk to them and watching how our words and our tone affect them.

If you’re making clever little sarcastic comments toward your children that could be heard as critical, remember that those can accumulate day after day and take a real toll on their view of themselves. At the very least, dad, you’re making yourself less fun to be around.

If you have any room for improvement here, take this seriously and be thinking about how you can build up your child. Avoid anything that could tear them down. Even when you need to correct or discipline, let the overwhelming message to your kids be that you are thrilled with them just the way they are.

Action Points

  • Think about your tone of voice when you’re being sarcastic or critical compared to when you’re being affirming. Try to adjust so that your positive tone backs up your words.
  • Download our free ebook on affirmation—with 100 non-sarcastic statements you can use with your kids.

Do you use sarcasm a lot with your kids? How has it affected them? Please share either below or at our Facebook page.

It's Great Being a Dad bookThis blog is adapted from another chapter in our new book, It’s Great Being a Dad by Jay Payleitner, Brock Griffin and Carey Casey.

NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can also sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.

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