“A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” (Proverbs 15:13) You know when it’s 8:27 pm and bedtime was at 8:00, but it’s just not happening? And you just feel DONE? I certainly do. As a parent, it is often very hard to always be the “bad cop”. We want our child to feel loved and secure, but we also have to do that with boundaries and rules. And when you have two independent people, like a parent and a child, with two separates wills and desires, things can often get heated and end in yelling and tears. But humor can change that.
Something that has really helped me stay calm and patient in those “I JUST WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME AND GO TO BED” moments is catching myself. I recognize I am being too serious and pushy and try to lighten the mood by using humor. Dr. Laura Markham, one of my favorite child psychologists talks about this in her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Dr. Markham emphasizes that using humor will flip a switch and stop the angry reaction in its path. When the parent escalates, the child escalates too. We are modeling our reaction for our children, so when we react with humor, we help our child react with humor as well.
Here are some ways to use humor in parenting situations where you feel stick:
1. Humor Turns a Stubborn Moment Silly
When we are engaged in a power struggle, it is a more human reaction to try and take control of the situation. For example, when you told your child to put their pajamas on ten times, and it still isn’t happening, and you are really excited about plopping on the couch with some Netflix, it is hard not to get annoyed. You feel the urge to raise your voice and shout, “I TOLD YOU TO GET YOUR PAJAMAS ON TEN TIMES, YOU NEVER LISTEN!!!” But you know that doing that will leave both you and your child feeling less than stellar and nobody likes going to bed on a sour note. I try to remind myself to stay light in that situation and take the attention off the struggle by making it goofy. “Oh, you don’t want to put your pajamas on? Why don’t I try wearing them? You think I can fit into a 4T?” And then pretend to put them on myself, with a lot of struggle grunts and noises. I guarantee it’ll lighten the mood and the routine will move a lot faster than before.
2. Humor: Give A Play By Play While Kids Are Fighting
Another one of my favorite techniques Dr. Markham uses in her book is turning a sibling fight into a “play by play”. For example, I will pretend I am a reporter and sit back and announce my kids’ every move.
It diffuses the situation and takes the attention off of the problem, and allows the kids to see that maybe the problem wasn’t that big, to begin with.
It might go something like this:
“Here I am, Reporter Mommy Flavin, at 95 Main Street in Burlington, North Carolina. I just arrived on the scene where Big Brother Flavin will not share his Octonaut toys with Little Brother Flavin. Both boys are getting increasingly irritated. SO far nothing has helped…”
My boys always think it’s so funny when I do this and they ask me to do it even when they’re not fighting.
3. Roughhouse To Connect And Ease Anxiety
Dr. Laura Markham also stresses the importance of physical contact to increase feelings of connection with your child. “Roughhousing is essential for kids. Laughter transforms the body chemistry to reduce stress hormones and reduce anxiety. Laughter creates more oxytocin, the bonding hormone, so when children laugh with another person, it strengthens that relationship.”
I love doing this with my kids. If they are in a pouty, whiny mood I try to flip it around on them by pretending to encourage their bad mood. I’ll say, “Whatever you do, don’t smile. I know you don’t want to do it…don’t smile!” A smile breaks out and then we will wrestle until the giggles explode.
4. Dance It Out
Any Grey’s Anatomy fans out there??? I have ALWAYS had success in changing the mood atmosphere in our home with a dance party. They can’t help but join in the fun and laugh at Mommy’s ridiculous (and I do mean ridiculously good) dance moves.
Remember, you set the tone on your home. If you want a joyful, fun, laughter-filled home, it doesn’t just happen. You have to model it for your kids. “…the joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) Just be warned, once it starts it is hard to stop. Laughter is contagious!
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)