No one sets out to raise a kid with no sense of humor. No one wants to be the mom of that "permanent stink eye" kid. We can all
agree on that.
But did you know that not only is it more pleasant to be
around a kid with a sense of humor, it's also good for your kid? Studies have
shown that a healthy sense of humor has been linked to stronger friendships, better problem-solving skills, less instances
of depression, and increased intelligence, self-esteem and creativity.
So what can we do to help our
kids grow up to be the kind of adults who laugh easily and are fun
to be around?
1. Learn to laugh at yourself
Before you think, "I already laugh at myself all the time," please
hear me out for a moment. Most people believe that they are good at laughing at
themselves, but few people actually are. Sure, I'm quick to poke fun at my own little
"quirky" behaviors, like always putting too much jam on my toast or being bad at
directions. But I secretly suspect those behaviors are not so bad, and they might
even be endearing to someone who loves me.
However, if you ask me to laugh at
myself when I'm truly wrong about something important, embarrassed or not feeling
very lovable, well, I really want to be a
person that breaks the tension with laughter in those situations, I really do.
But it's so hard. I fail more often than I succeed.
I kept my face stern, still a bit annoyed that my shoes were all wet.
A couple days ago, my 2-year-old daughter, Be a, was testing boundaries.
I was letting Bea water the garden, when she repeatedly sprayed me in the feet with
the garden hose even after I told her not to. Bea is still young enough that she
gets an unmistakably naughty and sneaky little look on her face when she is
being willfully disobedient, so I knew that it was no accident she had drenched
my feet. I sternly told her that I would
be finishing the watering of the garden and took the hose from her.
Bea was looking at me with the kind of solemn respect and
solidarity that every parent dreams of getting when they correct a kid. I kept
my face stern, still a bit annoyed that my shoes were all wet. Neither of us had noticed that when I had taken the hose from her I held it with the sprayer pointed directly at my face.
So then when I pulled the spray trigger to finish the watering, still holding my
stern gaze, I shot myself in the face with the hose at full blast. Bea
and I looked at each other in shock. If it had been an adult standing there, and we were in the middle of an argument, I might have reacted all frustrated
and embarrassed about it.
But it was my daughter watching me, wide-eyed and ready to
learn. It's strange how even when you
know something is funny, and that laughing would be nice, sometimes you still have to wait for that tipping point
inside your head to wobble and decide whether or not you can swallow your pride to laugh. But I did laugh, and then Bea laughed with me. We laughed hard until we could barely
breathe, like two best friends do.
You are not helping your child to be funny by telling your child how funny he is all the time. You don't need to fake laughter at every single silly thing they do.
The next day, when Bea accidentally put her hands into
the feet of her footie pajamas (something that
typically could cause a meltdown because of frustration), she paused and gave me
a little smirk. We were able to laugh together about how silly it looked.
2. Be vulnerable
When you can laugh at
something even when you don't have the upper hand, when you can see the humor
in an unfortunate situation even when the loser is you, that's when your sense
of humor becomes something that fixes things and connects you to other people.
That's what I'm learning right now, because that's what I want Bea to learn. I can only teach her by showing her.
One last thought: I think an under-appreciated part of teaching kids about humor is being genuine
with your laughs. You are not
helping your child to be funny by telling your child how funny he is all the
time. You don't need to fake laughter at every single silly thing they do.
The real aim should be to show your kids that it's okay to experiencing
a whole range of emotions, but that we can try to choose positive emotions over
negative ones whenever there is a chance to genuinely do that.