When they are about to tantrum or fight, catch them off guard with humor. You could try saying “Hey wait a second. Where did my child go? (Call out their name) ‘Child,’ where are you? ‘Child’ must be missing and someone replaced her with a lollypop monster. Uh oh, what am I going to tell your father? I can’t bring a lollypop monster home. I don’t even know if lollypop monsters sleep in beds. Oy, oy, oy!”
Humor gives second chances. When a child has asked me for something in a particularly whiny voice, I’ll say “Wait a second. I couldn’t possibly understand you with that voice. That was so silly. (You might even say something back to them in a whiny voice and then ask if they could understand you.) Let’s try this again with a regular voice.” Remember, the humor in your voice here goes a long way. This also works if your child has suddenly morphed into a trial attorney ready for a full-blow negotiation explaining why they should have, do, eat, or buy, something to which they know you will say “No.”
Humor can help with cooperation. When a child doesn’t want to clean up you might say “Oh my gosh, I forgot where these toys go. Isn’t that so silly? I just can’t remember. Can you show me?”
Use humor not sarcasm! Children don’t understand sarcasm and will more likely feel you are laughing at their expense or putting them down when you say something sarcastic. The trick here is recognizing the situations when humor can be helpful. When a child is upset about something with good reason, humor sounds like sarcasm and invalidates their feelings. This is not good for a child’s self-esteem. During times like these we want to acknowledge children’s feelings and problem solve ways of dealing with a situation. When your child has exhibited a behavior that is truly not okay, discipline, not humor, is essential.
Humor keeps it light. Humor can take the stress out of a situation for both a child and a parent. Sometimes that just what you need!
(Note: Have more questions about using humor with your individual child? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org)