Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Humor in Parenting

I was never 'good at' the kind of banter and teasing that school kids tend to do.  I was (and am) perhaps, too literal and sensitive.  I love laughter and giggles, but I never felt comfortable making fun of someone or hurting their feelings, under the guise of humor.  I also never knew what to do when the teasing was aimed at me.  I pretty much just froze.  Literally.  My eyes would go all blurry and I would hear whirring in my ears and I would ignore the rest of the world for those moments.

Humor often works because of being a slightly uncomfortable (or unexpected) juxtaposition of ideas.  Ayla (18 months old) thinks it is hi-larious to stick a knitting needle into a ball of yarn and then try to feed it to me, saying nom-nom-nom.  The idea of the yarn being my food just cracks her up.


My husband has a strong tendency towards sarcasm which sometimes is met with great laughter and sometimes with groans, but he is often trying to lighten a moody situation, and it often works.  I think humor in parenting can be a great tool.  Sometimes it's enough for just me to see the funny in a situation to keep me from responding badly.  (li'l toddler footprints really do look funny and kind of cute in a large pile of flour on the floor, if I can see it that way in the moment).
Sometimes humor can illustrate a point better than a straightforward statement.  Sylvia (4 yrs old), ten minutes away from home, yelling:  "I'm so thirsty.  I can't wait another moment for juice!!!"  Me:  "I shall have the clouds pour forth with juice and glue a large bucket to the hood of the car, so you can dip into it and drink your fill."  Sylvia:  "Oh...OK.  I guess I can wait."  This may or may not work depending on the kid, the situation, and the tone of voice, but it worked that time, much better than if I had said, "You just drank water 20 minutes ago, and we're almost home.  There's nothing I can do for you right now!"

Since I am fairly thin-skinned when it comes to put-down type humor, I often notice when parents are 'just teasing' their kids, and the kids really don't like it.  While I believe that a healthy amount of being able to laugh at oneself and one's quirky characteristics is awesome in an adult, I believe kids should be given the space to arrive there in their own time.  So, if my attempts to lighten a situation with humor go astray, I just apologize to my kids, let them know that I understand where they are coming from, and move on.

If I can find the humor in a tricky situation for myself, it helps me respond in a loving way.  If I can help my kids laugh and see the humor too, awesome!  However, if they do not want to be 'jollied' out of a bad mood, or feel like I'm disrespecting them, then my humor would just be meanness.  I try to avoid meanness.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. I'm a big humour fan myself, but I do not like belittling humour at all. I like to laugh at myself, and with others, but never at others. That just doesn't feel good to me.

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