What can pass for a sense of humor lately — snark and sarcasm — often isn’t so funny. It’s typically sassy, disrespectful, borderline humor. While that kind of humor has its place, hopefully it’s not the only sense of humor your child has. Hopefully you’ve done a little work to teach about and be an example for truly joyous and respectful humor. If not (yet), there’s no time like the present to get laughing.
Having a sense of humor is so critical in life! Not only is it just plain fun to laugh, but humor can get us through tough times, bond us to other people and remind us of the joy in life. Where do kids get their senses of humor? It’s a little too simplistic to say, “From their families.” Helping your child to develop their humor muscle is actually something to consider carefully — and have fun while doing it.
Explain why it’s funny
Hopefully some of your kids’ earliest memories are seeing you smile and seeing you laugh and play. This simple joyfulness is the beginning. Before they can walk and talk, kids will be absorbing the idea that things are funny — both for themselves and for others.
When kids begin to talk and begin to ask why something is funny, explain why it’s funny. Sure, your kids might not understand the nuance of some of that funny, but it’s a start. It’s part of that humor absorption happening in their early life.
Humor is often age-related. What is funny to one age isn’t as funny to another. Certain knock-knock jokes, for example, are hilarious to the younger set while older kids and adults don’t find them funny at all. Some humor is related to cultural literacy. Reference, for example, to 1990’s hair bands will be completely lost on the current crop of adolescents without extensive explanations.
This progression of the appreciation and understanding of humor is a combination of emotional development and exposure. In the process of teaching your kids about humor and helping them develop their humor muscle, you will have to endure many unfunny knock-knock jokes — and your kids will have to endure your jokes, too.
Along with helping our kids to learn what is funny, we need to help them learn that time and place play into whether something is funny. Good humor has manners!
It may seem like a no-brainer, but kids need to be told that humor generally is not a part of certain solemn occasions. They also need help understanding that at times, a single bit of humor may break the ice of a tense situation, but only one joke would be okay then, not two and definitely not ten.
These are the subtleties of humor that can be hard to convey and that they many learn the hard way: by crossing that line! Rather than assuming your child has it or will “pick it up,” talk about it! It’s ironic, sure, to talk about humor in a serious manner — but it’s appropriate, too!
Good humor is also respectful. While occasional snark and sarcasm have their place, humor isn’t so humorous when it hurts someone’s feelings. Often it’s a very fine line — and conveying that concept to your child can be a challenge. After all, the line changes person-to-person, and often for a single person depending on circumstance. Challenging as it may be, this is a key concept for a person’s humor to be appreciated beyond one’s own skin. Consider conveying it as you convey the Golden Rule: Express humor to others as you would want it expressed to you.
We all want our kids to develop a solid and appropriate sense of humor. Don’t leave it to chance!