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Using Humour to Encourage Good Behaviour

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 18 Jun 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Children Humour Joke Gag Comedy Good

Children respond well to humour. After all what child doesn’t like to laugh, particularly along with his or her parents? Jokes and gags are important tools in an adult’s tool kit for teaching children good behaviour. Understanding how humour can relate to behaviour, how to use humour correctly with children and what to avoid when making jokes with children should help you use humour more effectively in encouraging good behaviour in your child.

How Humour Encourages Good Behaviour

Being silly and using humour encourages good behaviour because it effectively re-routes a child’s focus from something negative to something positive. This then works very well when adults want to re-direct a child’s emotions but still mould their behaviour. Many adults find humour useful for encouraging good behaviour in children when they want to:
  • Issue a reminder of a task to be done
  • Issue a reminder of a behaviour they have already discussed with the child
  • Pre-empt a negative reaction, such as to an announcement or decision
  • Defuse a tense situation, such as an argument or hurt feelings
  • Enforcing limits that a child might not recognise or understand
  • Teach a lesson, particularly regarding personal responsibilities
  • Protect a child without undermining his or her self-confidence
  • Give a second chance for better behaviour once the comedy is done

Using Humour Correctly

Many adults like the idea of using good-natured humour to re-direct their children’s attention but aren’t quite sure which topics are appropriate for jokes. As a general rule, never make other people the subject of your comedy routine. Instead focus on:

-Yourself Example: Mummy’s going crazy due to the mess!
-Inanimate objects Example: The blocks are crying out to be tidied up!
-Human nature Example: We all need to eat, but occasionally vegetables too!
-Time Example: I wish we could fast forward to the fun too, let’s try to zip through chores!
-Word play Example: Daddy was right, these biscuits are monstrous - roar!
-Your child’s jokes Take the lead from his or her sense of humour

What to Avoid When Joking With Children

Humour can be appropriate in most private and public situations, though matching the humour to the environment is important. For example you probably don’t want to rely on broad slapstick comedy at church! Just as important is getting your tone and subject right. Always avoid a sarcastic tone. Unfortunately many people find sarcasm highly amusing but this kind of humour must not be used around children. Sarcasm and “jokes” which contain a negative message or edge will teach children nothing and likely result in them feeling picked on, made fun of or bullied. Never make your child, his appearance, characteristics or abilities the subject of a joke - or anyone else for that matter, as that will teach children such humour is acceptable. If you need a refresher course on children’s humour tune into a child’s television programme and see what makes your kids laugh.

Encouraging good behaviour feels like a never-ending task to some parents. Using humour can be a good way to re-direct children’s attention towards more positive activities. Understanding how humour can encourage good behaviour, how to use humour correctly and what to avoid when joking with children are all important for adults hoping to add some fun to their routines.

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