Monday, August 10, 2009

PD Tool Card: Sense of Humor

(Originally posted at Rational Jenn)

This week, I'm going to be focusing on parenting with my sense of humor engaged. I generally enjoy being playful and having fun, but it's sometimes difficult to remember that humor is a very effective way to mitigate potential parenting disasters.

Here's an image of the Sense of Humor Tool Card (found at this website):

I consider Games and Fun part of this category, too. There's a great book called Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, which I highly recommend if you're looking for more ideas to "lighten up."

Here are a few examples of things I've done in the past with the kids (many of which I first read about and/or adapted from Cohen's Playful Parenting book):

  • Pretending shock and horror that someone is doing something that I really want to encourage (such as using the potty or eating broccoli). "Stop! Nooooooo! Don't eat that or you'll be healthy and strong!" This is a big hit around here.
  • Generally, giving any sort of contrary instructions in a playful manner is typically met with giggling and even sometimes, compliance! "Do NOT put your shoes on or your feet will be protected from the rocks and the sun!" In the comments of this recent post over at Kelly's blog, she recommends using a version of this technique to diffuse a situation between siblings.
  • Games such as Race to the Potty and Who Can Put Five Things Away Before the Timer Goes Off? They are a fun way to take care of mundane/uninteresting jobs. I do not recommend any race game where children are racing against each other, though. Race only against a timer or a parent who can lose graciously or in a silly way. Otherwise your playful moment may disintegrate into tears because someone lost the Search for the Remote Control Game.
  • Role-reversal is a fun way to connect with kids. Nothing pleases kids more (well, MY children anyway) than getting to boss an adult around. It's a very empowering feeling, I think. So when it's time to go somewhere, for example, I will tell the kids "Okay, we need to go in five minutes. What should I do?" And they will boss boss boss boss boss me. It's kind of fun. A related game is the Pretend I'm Stupid Game, and "forget" where the forks go, or how to open up jars or containers, or how to find the grocery store. Good times.
  • Similarly, role-playing is fun, too. It's also an excellent way to find out what they're thinking or to work through tough emotions. When Ryan was small, we role-played the Time the Paramedic Peopleguys Came to our House (for his peanut reaction). We also role-played Mom Always Comes Back in preparation for my hospital stay when Morgan was born. You regular blog readers will not be surprised to learn that this role-playing stuff really connects with Ryan, and not so much with Morgan.
  • Rough play. I know a few families who frown upon rough play, but I think it's a great activity for a child to do with an adult (obviously kid-to-kid rough play is a bit different). When a kid is jumping all over Daddy, they're both laughing, working out some excess energy, and probably doing some role-reversal (Dad pretends to be weak so the kid can bowl him over, for example). But it's also a great way for kids to learn about limits. When things get too rough, Dad will know how to stop the play and say "That's too rough. Go softer or we'll have to stop." And then the kid gets a do-over. If he's just not able to calm down, then the adult can say "You're having a hard time stopping and I don't want to get hurt. Let's stop this game for now and try again another time."

A word about tickling, since it's mentioned on the card above--I am personally not too big on tickling. Or let me rephrase that--I personally HATE being tickled. I enjoy tickling my kids, but I always make sure they've used the potty recently are okay with tickling games and always always ALWAYS stop when they ask for it or seem overwhelmed. Tickling can be fun, but I don't like feeling out of control and that's how I feel when tickled. (And I'm in charge of my body, so I get to say if it gets tickled or not!)

For me, the challenge with humor is not that I don't have it--it's that I don't have it in heated moments. I'm sure this is true for many parents. Every once in a while, I'll start yelling about something and then switch to something silly in mid-rant, such as "I'm tired of cleaning up the . . . why am I yelling about this? That's very crazy and no good way to solve a problem! Maybe I should just do a silly dance instead!" The kids go from being amazed at my loud voice, to giggling and very much more willing to help me solve my problem! Funny, huh? So I'm going to work hard to do more of that this week.

What are some of your best ideas for parenting with a sense of humor?

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