I work with middle school kids. My husband works with middle school kids. We are both very cognizant of the general tendency of this age group to be smart-alecky. We don't even have to look to know that eyes are being rolled, and we both know exactly when two teens are sharing the "Look". Parents of teens know the "Look"; it's that facial expression that says "This adult is completely clueless."
"There isn't anything new under the sun, boys and girls," I sometimes tell students, when I am feeling generous. "Anything and everything that you can possibly think of doing, I've already done."
Which may or may not be true, but they don't know that for sure. With teenagers, you can never show any sort of fear; bravado works best. I can do the full-on bravado; I've watched a lot of Clint Eastwood movies. But I digress.
One of the things that really, really bugs me about teenagers is when they answer you in monosyllables. It drives me nuts. Did I mention that it really bothers me? Because it does.
Me: "What did you do in class today?"
Me: "What would you like to do after you graduate?"
Me: "Why did you throw your underpants at the gym teacher?"
Things tends to devolve from there, because I get bored.
Me: "Was the chair on fire when you sat down?"
My child is four. My husband and I carpool, so we pick Zane up from daycare together. As we ride home, we ask Zane what he did at school. We are trying to teach him the lost art of conversation. This is a vital life skill that will get him far in life if he can master it. We know this, and even though we aren't proficient at it ourselves, we introvert parents have high hopes for our extroverted son.
Most of the time, however, this is what we get:
"Zane, what did you do at school today?"
"I didn't do nothing."
"Did you color?"
"What did you color?"
"Did you learn anything?"
Finally my husband had had enough. Instead of snapping at Zane, like I would do, my husband spoke to Zane about his expectations for these sorts of situations. (In case you haven't figured it out, Larry is the "good" cop.)
"Zane, when I ask you about your day, I want you to say something such as, 'Daddy, today at school I colored a picture and learned about my ABCs.'" I was impressed; what he said was almost textbook behavior management.
Silence from the backseat. And then, a deep breath:
"Daddy, today at school I colored a picture and learned about my ABCs."
Perfect imitation of what my husband said, same rhythm, same speed, etc. Except for the sarcasm. The sarcasm was all Zane.