I organize a local writing group, and recently we were having a discussion about humor. How to weave humor into our writing to connect with an audience, tell a story, or develop characters. It got me thinking: How often do we think about humor in real life?
What makes us laugh? How does humor impact daily life?
As a parent of challenging kids, which (let’s be honest) they all are at some point, I’ve learned humor works wonders in many situations. I can’t remember a time when humor didn’t make things better.
Humor puts things into perspective.
Humor adds spice and fosters creativity.
Power struggle or argument?
Humor brings you back to what matters.
Humor makes it even better.
There are some caveats however: The type of humor matters a lot. This is something we’ve worked on with our kids. Sometimes old school humor relies on ridicule. It’s the picking on kids or making fun at someone else’s expense. That humor hurts most of the time. There is a place for it, but only when all involved know the rules and there are no power differences between the players. A level playing field so to speak.
As I stress with my boys, we strive for clever funny. Pointing out things that are truly curious and fun. Making unexpected connections, playing on the ridiculousness of situations, being silly for silly’s sake. (Usually harder for adults, but our kids can have a tough time with this too.)
When employing humor strategically, it helps to not take comments or situations too personally. It’s our job to teach kids boundaries around humor, because they’ll likely take things too far in every direction. We need to teach them how to communicate and negotiate with confidence, humor, and grace. The natural default (it seems) is to play on insecurities, so stay strong and playful.
Humor smoothes the edges.
Think of a recent situation with someone – your child, or maybe not – that didn’t go as well as you would have liked. What if you were able in the moment to inject some humor to shift the mood or change the dynamic? How could that have also shifted the outcome and the impact on each individual involved?
In my experience, humor reminds everyone that love comes first, and that even though you might be arguing or having a conflict at the moment, what matters most is the love.
The love is still there underneath the current conflict. It’s the foundation.
Being able to allow humor without using others as the fodder for laughter means that you’re confident in your own value, in yourself, and in your space so you aren’t rattled by the current situation. Which allows the humor to land softly and shift the scene.
In order to do that, you need to treat yourself in a way that shows you have value. When you put yourself at the bottom of the list, it shows that everyone else is more valuable than you. By default. The cultural story might read it otherwise, but that’s what’s going on. You feel it, and your kids feel it too.
So if you’re coming from that place, attempts at humor will have an edge. They will more likely have a ridicule or bite to them that isn’t funny, and that won’t shift the dynamic. That kind of humor only adds to the stress and divide. Because love and value is not at it’s base.
When you don’t have a foundation that all are loved and valued (including yourself), humor plays a different role. It has strings. And that feels like control in a passive aggressive way that builds walls instead of bringing people together. Take time for you, so you can be clear, confident, and silly with them.
And if you’re at a loss, farts are always funny.