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September 11, 2017

Laughter Is the Best Medicine, For Kids Too!

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Does this lighten the mood for you?

A man speaks frantically into the phone, "My wife is pregnant, and her contractions are only two minutes apart!"
"Is this her first child?" the doctor queries.
"No, you idiot!" the man shouts. "This is her *husband*!"

How about this one:

Two kids are talking to each other. One says, "I'm really worried. My dad works twelve hours a day to give me a nice home and good food. My mom spends the whole day cleaning and cooking for me. I'm worried sick!"
The other kid says, "What have you got to worry about? Sounds to me like you've got it made!"
The first kid says, "What if they try to escape?"

We love to laugh

Yep, we love to laugh, and so do our kids. It lightens our mood, helps us to forget our worries, refocuses our problems, and helps to bolster relationships especially during times of stress. Yes, discipline is stressful for both kids and parents and what better time to lighten the mood and break the tension.

If you’re a funny person by nature

Definitely take advantage of a good sense of humor and, if you have a sense of humor, good for you!! It’s a wonderful gift, and great to use in your parenting repertoire. If you’re not so funny, you can develop the skill. You just need to look for the opportunities.

How to use humor

Here are some ideas of how to lighten the mood, but first, a few jokes:

My 7-year-old daughter asked me twice today "what poison would kill someone the fastest?" and now I'm wondering if I've underestimated her.

When my kid is screaming in a restaurant and I'm not doing anything it's because I'm waiting for a stranger to step in and handle it.

Okay, back to the topic at-hand: keep in mind that you already know how to use humor and silliness to get your child to comply. In fact, you started with your kids, when they were very young, making chores fun by introducing the task with a playful sing-song voice (the ‘clean-up song…’), being silly, making a game of it, and doing all sorts of fun things to help promote motivation (yours and theirs). As your kiddo has gotten older, yes, more independence is expected, but do we need to remove all aspects of fun and silliness from the endeavor?

Yes, it’s easier when they are younger

If you’re prone toward silliness and you have not completely lost all child-like inclinations, you can have a ball with your kiddo even during chore-time. When giving directives, you can use different voices (opera singer, John Wayne, Scooby Doo), and if your child back-talks, falling to the floor and playing dead is a hoot. Actually, falling to the floor to play dead, faking a trip and falling, or falling for any reason is something kids find to be hilarious (pretending to fall over the stuff on the messy floor of his bedroom, then bouncing back up with a pair of pants on your head…). Fake crying when your kid is giving you a hard time, crying like your child does, and really pouring it on, is funny and also breaks the tension and reduces power-struggles. Also, never miss an opportunity for a tickling session. However, as our kids get older, we tend to become less silly, which is a shame. Nevertheless, there are still many ways to use humor and change-things-up a bit.

Time for another funny story:

A man observed a woman in the grocery store with a three year-old girl in her cart. As they passed the cookie section, the child asked for cookies and her mother told her "no." The little girl immediately began to whine and fuss, and the mother said quietly, "Now Ellen, we just have half of the aisles left to go through; don't be upset. It won't be long." He passed the Mother again in the candy aisle. Of course, the little girl began to shout for candy. When she was told she couldn't have any, she began to cry. The mother said, "There, there, Ellen, don't cry. Only two more aisles to go, and then we'll be checking out." The man again happened to be behind the pair at the check-out, where the little girl immediately began to clamor for gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there would be no gum purchased today. The mother patiently said, "Ellen, we'll be through this check out stand in five minutes, and then you can go home and have a nice nap." The man followed them out to the parking lot and stopped the woman to compliment her. "I couldn't help noticing how patient you were with little Ellen..." The mother broke in, "My little girl's name is Tammy... I'm Ellen."

Other ideas

Change things up; think outside the box. For example, if your child fusses about the clothes you picked-out for her, or won’t get dressed, then let her pick-out your clothes, or tell her that, if she won’t wear them, then you’ll wear her clothes and she has to wear your clothes. Or, if won’t brush the teeth, then you tell your kiddo that you’re going to show them how, but you do it in a crazy and silly way. Another fun idea is playfully tell your child “I’m going to get you” and chase them, rather than demanding they “come here now!!! It’s fun, silly, and diverts the power struggle. I have no doubt you can think of more fun and sillier ideas than my lame suggestions (by nature, I’m not a very funny person ☹, but the important thing, is ‘that that do’ not ‘what you do’). Kids appreciate the effort, they really do. Also, kids don’t want to be outdone, so they’ll get silly right back, and you both can have a lot of fun during times that are typically stressful. Having a fun sense of humor is contagious and both parents and kids will get into the act, so to speak. It really helps to improve the mood of the home, and helps kids to want to help-out, rather than feeling forced.

Some other thoughts on the matter, and tips:

A good sense of humor, not taking things too seriously, and putting things into perspective, is a tool that kids can rely on throughout life to help them. The ability to see the humor in things will also:

  • help your kiddo’s to see things from many perspectives other than the most obvious
  • help your kids to be spontaneous and fun
  • grasp unconventional ideas and think outside the box
  • see beneath and beyond the surface of things
  • enjoy and participate in the playful aspects of life
  • recognize that life simply isn’t as much fun without being at least somewhat child-like
  • not take themselves or most situations too seriously

No time for that!!!

I know what you’re thinking; “we’re on a tight schedule, I don’t have time for all the silliness, we have to get things done….”. I hear ya; however, I’m not sure that fighting with your child, for an hour, over what she is going to wear is saving you a lot of time.

Is this reinforcing bad behavior?

It could be seen that way. However, could also be seen as being creative, thinking outside the box, avoiding the ‘gulag approach’ to parenting, and helping to get things done that usually don’t get done.

How long do I have to do that?

You may be wondering “do I act silly and use humor all the time, like every morning…”? Well, you could, but then it might lose its impact, not to mention your child would think you’re, well, wacky. However, just like with anything else, now and again and mixing-in any given strategy, including humor, can be very effective.

Some more funnies:

How sad but true is this one:

We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.

Another one, but not so sad (unless true for your situation at work):

Parenting tip: Treat a difficult child the way you would your boss at work. Praise his achievements, ignore his tantrums, and resist the urge to sit him down and explain to him how his brain is not fully developed – Robert Brault.

When using humor, be sure not to…

Don’t be sarcastic!! Using sarcasm is demeaning, belittling, causes bad feelings, and defeats the purpose of trying to use humor. Yes, sometimes sarcasm can be effective, but be very careful.

Now go and have fun and be silly!

Now go and be silly, happy, funny, and child-like with your kids!

Okay, some closing thoughts, an attempt at humor, and a touching quote that targets what we’re all trying to accomplish in our parenting:

"Humor helps us to think out of the box. The average child laughs about 400 times per day, the average adult laughs only 15 times per day. What happened to the other 385 laughs?"

"Never underestimate a child's ability to get into more trouble."
Martin Mull

“There's no one in there.”
A 6-year-old while watching his father knock on the wall to find a support beam to hang a picture frame

“When I’m too big for you to hold, I’ll hold you instead.”
Ashley, age 5

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