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Parenting with Humor

February 16, 2017
Becky Smith and Dana Wright , MOV Parent

By Becky Smith and Dana Wright

Who feels like injecting humor when dealing with a crisis or difficult problem of parenting our children? Much research has been done over the last few decades to convince parents into using this immediately accessible gem. Many people use the gift of humor to overcome challenges in life, and parenting is no exception.

Benefits of Parenting With Humor

There are many connections to the positive use of humor in child development and family dynamics, such as:

Effects of Positive Role Modeling

What a pot of gold we have using humor as one of our most important resources! We can practice using humor in very simple ways that have profound effects.

For instance, if we learn to celebrate even the smallest successes, we increase the joy in our family relationships. As we share fun filled humor, our connections with loved ones deepen. This can start a rippling effect of interacting with another person even if interpersonal relationship entanglements exist. We tend to lose some of our playful spirit as we get older. Did you know the average adult laughs 15 times a day and a child averages about 400 times a day? Laughing just for the fun of it can have such far reaching impacts, like reduced stress.

Children learn so much by watching what their parents model for them. If humor and laughter is an integral part of family life, then children will "learn what they live," as the saying goes. Early in life, infants communicate with a smile, an indication of the humor inherently present. This totally dependent little human being will learn early on from the response of that smile whether humor will be welcomed or crushed.

Play, humor and mutual respect are inseparable in healthy parenting and family relationships. As parents model these ingredients for healthy humor, the child learns to have fun while living life to its fullest.

"Here is a story of an optimistic little boy who, when confronted with a room full of horse manure, dove right in, exclaiming, with all this manure, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!" Dr. Kuhn

How children respond to humor reveals human mental and social development. Cognitive and humor development can have positive or adverse effects on each other (Lovorn 2008).

Using humor to approach homework can diffuse frustrations, increase confidence, and lower stress to make the learning environment more effective. It can also build trust in the parent-child relationship (Lovorn 2008).

Tips for Using Humor In Parenting

1. See the big picture. The way you handle tough issues and enforce discipline can have a lasting effect on your child. Keep in mind that you want to have more positive memories than negative ones about your relationship. Instead of losing your cool when annoyed, make a silly face or say something that will make you both laugh.

2. Put yourself in your child's shoes. When dealing with difficult issues, ask yourself, "how would I like someone to treat me if I were in this situation?" Finding humorous and positive ways to deal with these issues can strengthen your relationship.

3. Look at the bright side. Look for the silver lining in every situation. Every challenge is an opportunity to influence your child's values. It is equally important to acknowledge when they make good choices.

4. Be a target. Use your own "less than stellar" life moments as an opportunity to establish open communication about some of the uncomfortable or awkward issues that they may be dealing with.

5. Focus on damage control. Purposefully avoid humor that can be seen as humiliating or embarrassing. Remember, you want to be one of the most positive influences in your child's life.


Bibi, Farzana. Chaudhry, Abid Ghafoor. Awan, Erum Abid. Tariq, Bushra. (2013). Contribution of Parenting Style in life domain of Children. Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Volume 12 (Issue 2), pp. 91-95.

Hickman, Gregory P., Crossland, Garnet J. (2004-2005). The Predictive Nature of Humor, Authoritative Parenting Style, and Academic Achievement on Indices of Initial Adjustment and Commitment to College Among College Freshmen. College Student Retention, Vol. 6 (Issue 2), p. 225-245.

Kuhn, Clifford, M.D. (2003). The Fun Factor. Louisville, KY: Minerva Books.

Lovorn, Michael G. (2008). Humor in the Home and in the Classroom: The Benefits of Laughing While We Learn. Journal of Education and Human Development, Volume 2 (Issue 1), p. 91-95.

Pearlman, E. (2009). When All Else Fails, Parent with humor. Retrieved from

Becky Smith, M.B.A., is a WVU Extension Service Families and Health Agent for Harrison County. Contact her at Dana Wright, M.S., is a WVU Extension Service Families and Health Agent for Logan and Mingo Counties. Contact her at or



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