Family life

Great parenting tools: Make 'em laugh

Stuck in a stalemate with your child? Don't worry about being right, just be ...funny. Tracy explains why.

By Tracy Chappell
Great parenting tools: Make 'em laugh

It’s eight o’clock on a Sunday night and you’re sitting at the kitchen table with your child and her homework. Bedtime is looming and homework needs to be done. You encouraged her to do it earlier in the weekend but, against your better judgment, you let her choose to wait until Sunday night. Now, here you both are, tired, frustrated and growing angrier with every passing moment.
Many of us find ourselves stuck in this zone with our kids. It may be about getting shoes on for school or teeth brushed or corralling kids from the park. Part of the problem is that emotions start running so high that all you can think is, “Why can’t she just …[fill]? I’m going to make her!” instead of keeping your eye on the prize and thinking, “What’s not working here?”
Here’s a strategy that’s guaranteed to work (I can’t cough up a money-back guarantee, but trust me on this one): Make ‘em laugh.
I know, when your child is freaking out about wanting an umbrella that has been MIA for weeks and refusing to go to school without that exact one (been there), the last thing you think of is to start cracking jokes. Your sole focus is to stop this ridiculous tirade and get the kid out the door so she’s not late, and you’re not late. But she knows that too, and what she wants is as important to her as what you want is to you. You’re at an impasse.
You may not even think it’s appropriate to turn the situation into a laughing matter, but face it: You have to do something to break the stalemate. Doing something funny almost always works. (It doesn’t have to be a teachable moment every time!) If you can tease a smile out of that scowl, you’ll probably find that your child is suddenly a little more accommodating. Get a giggle and you’re golden. I’ve seen it happen in my house repeatedly and believe me, my kids are masters at digging in their heels.
Humour doesn’t come naturally to everyone and, as I said, it can be particularly hard to access your funny bone when your child has decided to do an inventory of her backpack contents on the kitchen floor when you’re about to leave. But you don’t have to be a funny person to do something funny. We’re not talking about a stand-up routine here. I’m sure you crack your kids up all the time with things that are completely stupid. You can do this! Here are some ideas to keep in your back pocket if you find yourself stuck in a standoff and need to break the mood (you’ll know what works best for your kids):
Animate an object: It doesn’t matter what it is, but shift the focus from the child who won’t cooperate to the shoe she doesn’t want to put on, the park slide that won’t let go of her, etc. I do this all the time. “Shoe! Get on that foot! What’s the matter with you? The sidewalk is waiting to give you a kiss and if you don’t get out there, it’s going to cry!” Or if Avery won’t brush her teeth, I’ll start talking to the toothbrush, asking it if it’s scared of her mouth, does it want to take a peek, or have the toothbrush start talking to her. Works like a charm.
Get physical: Tickling is the obvious one. If you reach out to tickle at the most unexpected moment, it’s game over for Oscar the Grouch. Sean also gives the girls “silly rides” by picking them up and whipping them around like they’re on a roller coaster (it gives me a heart attack that they’re going to bash their heads on something, but for them it’s exhilarating). Or turn them into superheroes: One flying escapade around the living room in search of the shirt that needs to go on/the toys that need to be picked up, etc.
Make a face: Just bug your eyes out, twist your lips all weird and say, “Look at me!”
Call them names (Nicely, of course.): I do this when one of my kids is in a grumpy mood: “Hey, I thought I brought Avery home from daycare, but Grouchy Gus is here! How did he get into my van, that sneaky guy? I didn’t invite him for dinner. I want my Avery. I better go back and get her…”
Sing: It’s the easiest thing in the world. Pick a familiar tune like 'Jingle Bells' and start delivering your message musically: "We are late/We are late/Where are Anna’s shoes?/If we don’t get out of here/It will be bad news." Sometimes I just take on an operatic tune or a funny accent as I request they come for dinner or whatever, and they always crack up. I think they also relate the humour to me being in a silly mood, which makes them want to come just to see what I might do next.
Hope these ideas help in turning those frowns upside down. What do you do to make your kids laugh?

Don’t miss these other Great Parenting Tools:
The egg timer
Family meetings
Parent like a professional

Photo by Brit via Flickr

This article was originally published on May 28, 2012

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