Using Humor as a Parenting Tool

I'm Michelle!

Master Life Coach, Wife & Mom, Certified Nervous System Fitness Expert, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Podcaster, Attorney, and Deep Believer in Curiosity and Self-Compassion

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It’s Motherhood Monday, the best way to intentionally start the week! If you’re new here, each Monday we focus on a different family value and discuss a few ideas for how we can start to cultivate it in our families in the coming week.  And this week, we’re talking humor.  

Humor is such an effective parenting tool, and I think probably one of the most underrated.  How we look at things, our paradigms and our perspective, can deeply affect how we choose to react or respond – and that’s so true for parenting.  A little levity – the ability to choose to see the situation from a lighter perspective when it’s appropriate, it can help keep us calm and help us respond to our kids from a more thoughtful place. I think sometimes I’ve found humor to be so effective because it seems to catch my kids off guard. It kinda cuts through the nagging, reminding, the negotiating, and I’ve found when I can muster up the energy to make them laugh a bit, it can break a tense moment, make a connection, and my kids really tend to respond and cooperate more easily.  It can be a great tool to help diffuse tension, set limits, to reinforce behaviors we want to encourage, and really help grow our bond with our kids. Not to mention – it’s fun!! And we could all use a little more fun in our days, amen?!  

A few weeks ago we had some friends over for a BBQ and our kids were all playing and my daughter Amory, she just turned 5, fell and hurt herself.  She ran over to me with little tears streaming down her face and kinda buried her head in my armpit.  I took a moment to make sure she was ok, and then I whispered in her ear “how stinky are my armpits?!” – guys she started giggling and then a few seconds later she was full out laughing and the whole mood shifted!  It was really eye opening for me – humor is such a great parenting tool!

We’re talking healthy humor here – not sarcasm, not teasing at the expense of your kids, but healthy humor that shifts the mood and gets them to crack a smile.  Think about it – developmentally, we laugh before we talk.  We laugh before we walk – laughter and humor are just wired in us. So let’s talk about how we can infuse humor into our parenting, depending on how old our kids are. 

Here are a few ideas to incorporate humor into our parenting:

For little ones and toddlers, it’s all about using humor to quit the power plays. Instead of battling each other, you can try to use humor to work together with your toddler towards the goal. You’re moving from that “I’m going to make you do this” approach, to “this is kinda fun to do together.” It’s being silly – it’s that pretending to brush the stuffed animals teeth while your 2 year old brushes her teeth. It is turning things into games or competition. I use this strategy a ton when I’m trying to get my little ones to clean up the toy room.  I set a timer for 10 minutes and everyone has to clean up as fast as they can.  And while they’re cleaning I do dumb silly stuff – clean like a robot, clean like a bunny, whatever and they love it and in 5-10 minutes of everyone chipping in, the toy room is clean. 

Same thing goes with getting in the car – any of you with kids in car seats know that just getting them buckled can be a struggle. Sometimes, I pretend I’m a pilot “Hello, this is your pilot mommy speaking.  We’ll be taking off shortly. If you need something, please ask. Buckle up and enjoy your flight today.”  And the sillier I do it, the more likely they are to cooperate and buckle themselves in without hesitation. 

With young school-aged kids, the games work well too.  My kids love races and any competition – who can get dressed the quickest, who can put their shoes away the fastest, who can make their bed in under 1 minute? They eat this stuff up. Sometimes, my silliness is annoying to them, but it gets them to shape up.  Man, if they’re whining (which is like nails on a chalkboard to me), sometimes I’ll pretend I can’t understand them in a silly way – “Hmm I’m having a hard time understanding with all this whining … let me push a button and I tap their nose “roar” Ahhh a lion! Wrong button! Tap their nose “beep” – ahh there’s my Ashton – what were you saying?  And they’ll laugh and usually they’ll continue speaking to me without whining.  And you all know your kids best – if they’re whining because they’re tired or really upset, I can judge when humor is going to make things worse and set them off, vs. when they’re just whining to whine, so just use your judgment there. 

For older kids in those middle school or teenage years, you’re probably thinking that using humor is just going to earn you an eye roll, so they might be over the silly stuff, but you can still keep things light.  Research shows a correlation between parenting with humor and higher levels of self esteem in teens.  Your kid forgets to take out the trash, you can put a post it on the trash  – I smell – wanna go out?!  If your kids start arguing in public – start singing.  They’re gonna be so embarrassed they’ll stop!  And this isn’t avoidance or manipulation – it’s about connecting through humor. Then, after the situation’s been diffused, you can have a collaborative conversation with your kids.  You can explain why you asked them to do or not do something and why you need compliance from them.  You might also find it helpful to use humor in discussing some of the more sensitive subjects with your teen kids – humor in dating, their friendships, etc. It all comes back to that connection.  Humor is such a great antidote to shame – it reinforces that human connection.  When kids feel connected, they feel like you’re on the same team, and it can make some of these tough conversations easier to have. 

Ok so before we wrap up, I want to touch on using humor in disciplining our children.

Parenting experts have been telling us for years now that parenting in an authoritarian way, where control and harsh discipline are the go-to tactics, that can be more harmful than good.  We know now, through research, that children raised in homes that are strict and unresponsive to their emotional needs can develop chronic stress and anxiety.  So, I think we can purposefully find ways to drop in a little humor even in how we discipline our kids. 

We know that the most important factor in child discipline is connecting with our kids.  Connect before you correct, right?  And humor is one of the best ways to connect with our kids.  It’s not that using humor as a response to behavior we want to correct is like a reward for that unwanted behavior. Rather, it’s understanding that underlying that behavior is pretty likely a need for attention and connection. That poor behavior is likely coming from disconnection, so the solution would be re-connection – and humor is one of the best ways to do that.

Well friends, I hope you’ll give this strategy a try and let me know how it goes! Share your silliest stories from the week below or shoot me a DM over at @themotherhood.podcast

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You my friend, are called to a life of fullness and abundance - no matter how wild this motherhood journey is. It's time to trade the exhaustion and overwhelm for peace and joy.  No more hot-mess express.  I've got you. 

Learn more

Let's redefine what's possible in motherhood.

cool as a cucumber, ENNEAGRAM 3, book hoarder, MATCHA LATTE LOVER, growth seeker, accountability partner, and your biggest cheerleader

I'm Michelle.
Your Master Coach.

You my friend, are called to a life of fullness and abundance - no matter how wild this motherhood journey is. It's time to trade the exhaustion and overwhelm for peace and joy.  No more hot-mess express.  I've got you. 

Learn more

Let's redefine what's possible in motherhood.


Cheers to starting your day right!  Make yourself comfortable and get ready to dig in, learn, and most importantly, take action!

You got it, Mama!

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Michelle Grosser

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