All parents need a toolbox of parenting tools. And we use the different tools for different situations. We have tools we save for special occasions and ones we pull out more often. My go-to parenting tool right now is humor.
Jokes, one liners, hyperbole, and irreverence are natural for me, so it is natural that they be a part of my parenting toolbox. I use them because I feel like humor diffuses otherwise negative situations, and my kids know that we aren’t taking life too seriously.
My first peak at humor as a parenting tool was with my dad when I was a young child. He would approach me when I was grumpy or in a bad mood and say “I bet I can make you smile before the count of 3.” Then he would count to 3 with silly faces and stupid voices and I would always crack. I never made it to 3 without smiling first.
And then there was Chad that used humor with our kids long before I was comfortable with it, especially when they got hurt. I would be busy hugging and stroking and nurturing their wounds, and he would make them laugh. When a body part gets hurt, he always says “We better cut if off then” and then he starts making chain saw noises and sawing away the hurt limb with his hand. It sounds a bit serial killerish, but it always makes the kids turn from crying to laughter.
I have become more and more comfortable with the humor tool over the years and turn to it way more often. Here are a few situations where we have used humor lately:
Scenario #1: Child A was whining and complaining about our Thomas the Train toothpaste. She yelled, “Thomas the Train is so stupid. It is for babies. Why do we have to have this toothpaste? It tastes gross.” She went on and on. Who knew someone could rant about toothpaste for over a minute?
When she was finished, I just looked at her and chimed, “Choo! Choo!” I may or may not have pumped my arm.
We both laughed. Maybe me harder than her, but she got the message that her rant was childish and unnecessary.
Scenario #2: Child A was blaming me for things in her life being out of order. The conversation went something like this: “It is your fault I didn’t practice my piano because you didn’t wake me up early enough. And it is your fault my room is messy because….” I chimed in with my most sympathetic voice: “You are right, honey. It is my fault. And it is my fault you have red hair and freckles. It is my fault you are so smart and so organized. It is my fault that you have brothers and a sister. It is my fault you get to eat a yummy breakfast. It is my fault that …”
I kept going with outlandish claims until Child A was laughing and realized she was being a nugget.
Scenario #3: Child B about knocked his two front teeth out. He tripped on some wooden stairs and fell with his teeth into the stair above. He cried like I have never heard him before. I reacted quickly and got him washed up and hugged. He laid on my lap and I held an ice pack to his lip.
As he looked at me with big tears in his eyes, I said, “Don’t worry, honey. I will still love you with missing front teeth. You can be my little hillbilly. You can talk like THis. I will buy you a straw hat and everything. Don’t you worry.” Then I went on to the other possibilities. “Or maybe we could go for gold caps instead and you could be my rapper thug son or we could do silver and you could be my little pirate….”
He manged to eek out a smile through his swollen, bloodied, mouth.
Scenario #4: Child C was “too sick” to go to church. According to her, everything hurt– her tummy, her ear, her neck. She had a bad cough too that could appear on cue. Knowing this child’s personality, I didn’t force the issue. She is as stubborn as they come and I know better to go head to head with her. I prefer a much more back door route.
Before leaving for church, we had family prayer. Chad said it and blessed that Child C’s tummy would feel better and her neck and her ear and her throat, etc. He went on and on about her ailments. At this point all of us were laughing out loud in the middle of the prayer because we all knew she was faking it– and so did she.
Our prayers were answered. She was miraculously healed and she managed to make it to church on time.
Sometimes kids just need to be jolted out of current patterns. Slapping and spanking were used in the past as a way to make this jolt. But I prefer to jolt my kids with humor and laughter. A literal shift in the brain happens, and they go from whining, crying or frustration to light, fun and laughter. The brain shift is all they really needed to get a grip.
Just like you wouldn’t use a hammer for every project, humor doesn’t work in every situation either. It is not always appropriate, but humor can go a long way when it comes to dealing with children and teenagers.