Can We Discipline Using Humor?

I have sometimes experimented with humor when trying to get through to Giggles and Cuddles, but it was always the last resort: when all else failed, I tried humor, to see if it would work. Well, I have since discovered that everything else almost always fails, so this year I have decided to try to change things around a little: I’ve been using humor as often as possible, and not as a last resort. I have read numerous articles about the benefits of humor and how it works when disciplining children. Humor is often a good way to distract children, grab their attention, and teach them how to manage their emotions.

In certain situations when kids are whining, sometimes all they need is to be distracted. Humor works wonders here and they more often than not forget what they were whining about in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is for the parent to act silly, sing a funny song or use an object (a stuffed animal or a truck) to do the talking or singing, and the child just snaps out of it.

When parents are angry and get serious, children oftentimes switch off and stop listening. With humor, you automatically grab their attention and they’re ready to listen to what you have to say, as humor reduces stress and calms the brain. One example is reverse psychology – this one almost always works for us (so far). For example, when the girls are being difficult at mealtimes, I say it’s fine – they don’t have to finish their food, as I am very hungry and will get to their plates as soon as I finish mine. It then turns into a competition to see who will finish her food first.

Anger and raising one’s voice automatically results in a power struggle with children, whereas humor diffuses that power struggle and makes them more receptive to the message you are trying to get across. Anger also results in loss of control for both parents and children. Humor helps us manage our emotions better, which is after all one of the most important tools we want to teach our children (and ourselves in the process).

Humor also helps in conflict resolution. Twins are a real blessing, as they keep each other company, are great playmates and best friends. But they also often have ugly fights. Who wouldn’t when they’re with the same person, doing the same things 24/7? Quite often their dad and I will replicate their behavior, pretending we’re fighting over something, for example a mug or the right to sit on a particular chair. They get the message, and we all end up laughing about it.

When using humor, though, one must be careful to never make fun of the children or tease them, because this is hurtful and will almost always backfire, aggravating the situation. It can be very destructive. There are also times when children misbehave badly, which warrants some serious discipline, so parents need to be sensitive as to when humor will work and when a more serious, yet calm and respectful, approach is needed.

Overall, I find humor to be beneficial, not only for the children but also very much for the parents. Defiance and power struggles are emotionally draining, especially in the evenings before bedtime, when everyone is tired and energies are depleted. Our initial instinct during those times is to scream, reprimand or threaten. This aggravates the misbehavior and we end up in a vicious circle and often go to bed with heavy hearts because the day simply did not end well. It takes effort and practice, but the next time when you feel you are about to lose your temper with your children, try turning it into a humorous situation and see what happens. You will soon discover that this a win-win situation and everyone ends up feeling good.

Text and photos by Didi in Zurich

Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.

Photo overlays by Andrea Snashall




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