Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Humor: Tool Box

The vast majority of my favorite parenting books, the ones focused on respecting a kid's mind to help them develop independence, mention humor.  Unless you're one of those naturally hysterical folks though, I think it takes a bit of practice and often a little pre-thinking to get started.  How exactly does one use humor as a tool?  So, I wanted to share a few of the ways I've found it effective in lightening my parenting life.

Crossing the road
"Look left.  No zebras.  Look right.  No flamingos."
I've used every animal I can think of from slugs and crabs to elephants and whales and I always get a laugh and a correction.  "No cars!"  It makes this often tedious learning process more playful for everyone and I find he actually looks both ways more often!

Helping with a shoe / zipper / something still tricky for their fingers
"Time for the shoes, they go on the ears." (Placing it on the ears)
This has changed more than one cranky, red, frustrated face into a grin as I get a little foot lifted for help.  It's a wonderful tool for diffusing frustration and gaining cooperation.  I've yet to find a kid who doesn't love to show what they know.

Answering a question when you know they already know the answer
Kid: Where are we going?
Parent: The moon.
A great way to get a giggle and a correction and start a conversation about the next activity.  Just today, my son asked where the breakfast bacon had gone.  I had all sorts of suggestions from the dishwasher to the laundry bin.  He kept saying no and finally put me straight that it went from his mouth through his esophagus into his tummy and then into his intestines... he then proceeded to tell me all about a shark inside his intestines.  I thought we should go get an x-ray, but he informed me it was an invisible shark.

Treating the squirms
Parent: "Can I have your ears?" (grab ears)
Kid: "No!" (+ giggles)
Parent: "Your elbows?" (hopeful expression, grab elbows)
Kid: "No!" (+ giggles and often a new suggestion in response to a disappointed parental expression)
This can go on for fifteen minutes more or less gently depending on kid preferences (I've got a rough and tumbler), plus it's great for teaching body parts too.  My son knew about his clavicles and hips by the time he was three.  It's also wonderful for deep pressure stimulation to joints with kids that have sensory integration difficulties.

Washing hands (the recommendation is to make sure they rinse long enough to sing the abc song)
Parent: A B C D E F Q
Kid: No, G
Parent: A B C D E F G H I M P L M N O W
Kid: No, no, A B C D...
Hands washed.  No fighting. Big smiles.

Brushing teeth (kid's mouth closed)
Parent (singing and brushing): brush, brush, brush the forehead
Kid: no, teeth (mouth closed again)
Parent: brush, brush, brush the cheeks
Kid: no, teeth
Eventually, you get to the teeth and an open mouth and it's honestly much faster and fun than fighting.

Reading practice (if it's just getting over the getting started hump)
Parent (well known book held upside down): Lets see, we start here.  Hmmm, something is wrong with the words.
Kid curiosity and the love of correcting usually takes over, but you can always start reading with gibberish sounding words.  I often respond to the correction with a smile and comment like, "thank you" or "Oh!  Sometimes I get confused."

Food choices for dinner (two real, one fake)
"Would you like hot dogs, hamburgers, or walrus?"
This is another one that clears away the cranky face when you know a stream of "no" responses is lurking.  Of course, if they pick walrus, you can serve up a dramatic pretend plateful and join in the sampling.  They might find they still have room for one of the other choices when done.

These are some ideas that have worked for me, but I'd love to hear how you've made humor work as a parenting tool for you :)


  1. I absolutely love this! This is a tool I use a lot, though with mixed results. Sometimes I mostly use it for me. If I have to say something again and again for the 500th time, saying it in a funny voice or in a poem keeps me from yelling it. I sing a lot of instruction in crazy songs. I also use the one where they know the answer. Like if Livy says "When are we going to be there?", I answer "In 100 million years."

    All this playful parenting is starting work really well for me, now that Livy is 6. She usually rolls her eyes and thinks I am silly, but I can tell she is enjoying it. I overheard her telling Jenn's Morgan that I was really crazy, in a tone of great respect. But, when she was younger, she did not like it at all. Any playfulness was seen as not respecting her very serious feelings. So for the longest time, I had to act out my natural playfulness on other folks. She would cackle hysterically if I yelled at Aaron when I was trying to get him to hurry, "A for awesome, A for at last, R-O-N cause he goes real fast!" But if I dared to make her name into a song, she would not like it. So I continued to sing opera when I felt frustrated with the computer, but nothing to do with her. I am super glad she has grown into this because, like you, I find that it gets good cooperation and it makes parenting more fun.

  2. I love these, Rachel, thanks. I, too, find that singing works well for my kids. I often make up silly songs (I usually borrow the tunes from other songs like Yankee Doodle or Twinkle, Twinkle) about whatever activity we might be doing that they don't necessarily want to be doing (cleaning up the room, going to the dentist, etc.) I also find that if Isaac really doesn't want to do something, asking him whether he wants to walk or fly usually works. (He always wants to fly.) For Athena, carrying her upside-down usually gets the giggles going and gets her out of her sour mood.

  3. "Don't you DARE eat that bite of pizza! No! Don't!....Argggg, you did it. I'm having a heart attack!" And then continue with having a stroke, etc.

    Talking in strange voices. I'm called upon to be Cajun Baby, Whale, Kermit the Frog, and the new favorite, Witch, all the time. Sammy will do just about anything Cajun Baby asks of her, even if she would fight mommy to the death.

  4. I love it! What fun ideas :)
    Kelly- I'm thrilled Livy has started enjoying the giggles interactions too for your mutual enjoyment!
    Mia- I'd forgotten about carrying! Cameron also loves to be dragged, squashed, rolled, hopped... you name it in the rough-and-tumble category!
    Amy- Brilliant! I haven't played much with voices, but I bet that would work wonders. I've never tried the reverse statements, but I know that would get me gales of glee. I will definitely try both ideas!
    Thanks, ladies :)

  5. Love these suggestions, thank you. I have to admit, I am not one to use humor to diffuse a tantrum, so this is one tactic I have to practice.

  6. Practice does help :) I've been practicing a few of Amy's ideas and it does feel clunky at first, but I'll get there!

  7. I'll have to agree with Amy, the reverse statements are my go to tool. . "I'm going to go put our book away. Now you make sure no one does anything to these pajamas, when I come back I want them sitting right here on the bed as neatly as this."

    My daughter practically pushes me out of the room because she can't wait to put those pajamas on.

  8. Thanks, Kevin. Sounds like a great tool! My son is still a bit confused by it, but I don't think it will take him too long to catch on :)

  9. Chicken nuggets taste amazingly similar to gazelle. Very good for hungry lions to eat.