Teaching Character: Humor

Posted on Mar 14, 2021 by 9 Comments

When Tina Fey accepted the Mark Twain prize for American humor, she acknowledged that funny people often come from a difficult childhood or troubled family. Then she promptly looked up to her parents in the audience and said, “They are giving me the Mark Twain prize for American humor…what did you animals do to me?”

And then she sorta let it slip that it was a good time to tell them she’d be putting them in a home.

So tread lightly here…just joking!

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

I talk a lot about modeling behavior and for teaching humor, that’d be the most obvious place to start. For one, I think our actions are a better teacher than our words ever will be.

I remember growing up my Dad would joke about “do as I say, not as I do.” Mostly this was around Mardi Gras time when he’d be riding around in (actually on) his friend’s Triumph convertible, with only his grass skirt and beer to help him adhere to the hood like a squashed bug. That man did have a joie de vivre to go along with his twisted sense of humor, I tell you what. OK, maybe not the best example.

Often you’d have to look for the twinkle in his eye to tell if he was joking or serious. And that twinkle taught me a lot about humor.

So nurturing your inner funny bone can go far in nurturing your child’s.

Dissecting Humor

But, no. I’m not going to go through the many steps to being funny. Mainly because I’m not funny. I’m especially not going to tell you the one funny joke I know*** More importantly, I think E.B. White was right when he said, “Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

I will say that kids of all ages find different things funny. Your teen isn’t going to burst out laughing and giggling if you lift his shirt and blow a zerbert. Throw you a stink eye (or something worse), definitely! But not a laugh. And your toddler will stare at you perplexed when you toss out a little sarcasm.

It’s pretty safe to say that younger ones like mixing up words, falling down, and fart noises. As they age, then get ready for lewd jokes, puns, and sharpening intellect.

Using Humor in Parenting

However, all jokes aside, humor in parenting is a double edged sword. Why is it not all fun and games? Because humor - while it is an unmatched tool in Ninja parenting - can seriously undermine a parent’s authority. No joke.

If you are positioning yourself as your kid’s comic relief, then you might be giving the impression that you are not to be taken seriously. That your word is fluff. That you are more friend than parent. And that’s no place of strength from which to steer your parenting ship.

Possibly fake crying, throwing mock tantrums, pretending to whine or other ways that strip you of your parental integrity all in the name of fun might not be the best idea. I’m not saying; I’m just saying. It’s like knowing the difference between funny humor and mean humor. There is a line.

Luckily, having a sense of humor isn’t just about being an entertainer. A sense of humor is the ability to see situations from a less obvious or expected point of view. It’s about being playful, lighthearted. Essentially knowing how to own your inner authority without being authoritative and rigid. No easy task.

There are two, no three, no wait seven…OK a bazillion books that tickle kids (and parents). A few of my favorites are:

1. Mo Willems. Just about everything he writes makes me laugh out loud. Like a child’s version of David Sedaris or Tina Fey for that matter. Kids, and the parents that read to them, gobble up his books over and over and over again.

2. Dallas Clayton. If you don’t like the the word ‘awesome,’ then feel free to disagree with me. But. Dallas Clayton is one awesomely funny dude.

3. Dr. Seuss. ‘Nuf said.

There’s got to be some books out there that you’d recommend, too???

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about humor as a way to avoid disciplining. Or a way to discipline. Or anything having to do with disciplining. There is a difference between authority and discipline. And it’s a difference that makes a difference.

Ok, ready for my joke?

***These two strings walk up to a bar. The first string walks in and orders and the bartender throws him out and yells “I don’t serve strings in this bar. The other string ruffs himself up on the street and curls up and orders. The bartender shouts, “Hey, didn’t you hear what I told your buddy?”
The string says “Yeah.”
The bartender says, “Aren’t you a string?”
The string says, “No, I’m a frayed knot…”

Previous character lessons: Hope, Love, Gratitude, Zest, Social Intelligence, Self Control, Grit.

photo credit: nosha

Posted in: Mommy Stuff, Parenting

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  • http://www.jdaniel4smom.com JDaniel4′s Mom

    Humor is so important in a home. I love the books you selected. They do make my family laugh.

  • http://www.livingthescream.com living The Scream

    I don;t what the world would do without humor! Humor gets me through so much. When I am really mad at my kids and they do something that makes me laugh. It seriously makes me realize how lucky I am.

  • Julie C.

    Oh my gosh!! I kid you not, that is my most favorite joke EVER. That’s the only joke I ever tell, too!! That. is. so. weird. I knew I liked you.

  • http://www.twobearsfarm.com Lisa @ Two Bears Farm

    Mo Willems is the bomb. I had to read to my twins’ preschool class today, and brought two of his books (plus a cute book called The Pout Pout Fish).

  • http://busykidshappymom.org busy kids=happy mom

    We absolutely love jokes! I put a joke daily into my kid’s lunch. When they were learning how to read everyone would pass them around the lunch table. So much fun. Laughter is good medicine!

  • http://www.mommywithselectivememory.blogspot.com Mommy With Selective Memory

    We were just talking about this the other day. We were watching an episode of one of our favorite shows, Little Bear. A little cricket jumped on to of the dog’s head and both our three year old AND our toddler burst out laughing. It really hit me then that they do have a sense of humor and apparently at this age, it’s slapstick humor, but humor nonetheless!

  • Pingback: Teaching Character: Patience | Modern Home Modern Baby

  • kate

    @busy kids. Aww - I love that, putting notes into their lunch. I’m gonna steal that one day. Thanks!

  • kate

    @Julie C. HAAAA. Awesome.