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 :)