I like to think of myself as someone with a quick wit. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is his ability to always make me laugh, even when I'm mad at him (is there anything better than spontaneous laughter to defuse an argument?). So our kids were predisposed to be funny, too, right? Surprisingly, a great sense of humor isn't a genetically shared trait — though both of my children seem to share their parents' love of a good joke and a belly laugh. Instead, having a sense of humor is a learned quality that can be developed in kids, and helping to encourage your kids' funny nature is a lot more important than it might sound.
Sure, funny people often tend to make friends easily and, at least on the exterior, seem to enjoy life a little more than their serious counterparts. But having a sense of humor is more about recognizing the humor in situations than creating that humor in the first place, and that skill can be learned, even in children who will never be mistaken for the class clown.
Research has shown that kids with a strong sense of humor tend to be happier, be more optimistic, and have higher self-esteem. A sense of humor allows children to handle the challenges of childhood — differences between themselves and their peers, teasing and friendship drama, and tough situations like moving towns or schools or dealing with a family death — with a positive attitude. And don't forget the bonding power of sharing a laugh with your kids. Is there anything better than making your kids laugh or finding yourself cracking up at something they've done or said? Truly, having a sense of humor will give your child a huge advantage throughout life, and you can help grow that funny bone. Here's how.
- Show off your own funny side. The best way kids can learn how and when to be funny is by watching you. Tell jokes and funny stories. Use physical comedy like making silly faces and doing wacky dance moves to evoke a laugh and teach your kids to not take life so seriously. Try to laugh off small infractions like spilled drinks or broken toys.
- Engage when your child is trying to be humorous. My daughter is constantly telling me the worst jokes ever, which she learns from YouTube, TV shows, and books or makes up herself, and you better believe I laugh. Teaching your kids that they have the power to make others laugh and smile is giving them a powerful tool — one that will benefit you both.
- Create a humor-filled world. Stock up on funny, age-appropriate books (picture and rhyming books for little ones; comics and joke books for older kids). Tell jokes — even bad ones — regularly. Play games that require you to act silly. By making humor part of your every day life, your child is more likely to continue the habit.
- Make household tasks more fun. By turning not-so-fun responsibilities like picking up toys or putting away laundry into a game, you'll not only win points with your kids as a "fun adult," but you're also more likely to get them to help without an argument. Moreover, you're teaching them that even the most mundane things in life can be made fun when you incorporate your own sense of humor.
- Teach them humor boundaries. If your child's humor ventures into off-color or mean-spirited territory, be sure to get them back on track. Explain that making fun of people is always wrong, and take the time to talk about why a mean or vulgar joke isn't funny. Kids often go for bathroom humor when they're trying to be funny; discourage them relying too heavily on those kind of jokes or they're likely to tell them in inappropriate places.
- Schedule family funny nights. Watch a comedic movie. Play a silly game that's bound to end in laughter. Take pictures of each other making your best wacky faces. Not only will the activities be fun in the moment, but they're bound to create some smile-inducing long-term memories as well.