How Humor Impacts Your Kids

What did Tennessee? The same thing Arkansas! Get it? Dad’s are famous for their “dad jokes” – silly jokes that make their kids laugh and groan at the same time. Dad jokes are fun (even when mom tells them!), but other aspects of humor can actually hurt your kids.

Studies have found children surrounded by positive humor and who develop a positive sense of humor are more resilient, and the humor tends to have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. This is particularly true if the child learns to look for the humor in a negative situation. Humor can also help their relationships when jokes are shared with others – unless those jokes are at the expense of others.

That is where humor gets a bit tricky. Many families view teasing one another as a form of acceptable humor. Unfortunately, teasing is often hurtful and when allowed to continue for a long period of time about the same topic, can damage a child’s self image. When teasing, it is important to consider the topic and the child’s personality. A one time gentle ribbing about a “certain someone” circling around looking for an excuse to start a conversation (implication, because he or she liked the child being teased) is very different from a child being called “thunder thighs” in teasing for several years.

It is important to remember a child’s self image and self esteem are delicate. While you don’t want your child to have self esteem that is too high, giving your child low self esteem is also unhealthy and easier than you would imagine. I don’t care how thin your daughter is or how strong your son may be. If you continually tease her about being fat or him of being weak, they will begin to view themselves that way – regardless of the image in the mirror or what others may say.

Also watch for signs of aggressive humor. Aggressive humor is often used to make someone else look bad in order to make the “jokesters” feel better about their own self image. This type of humor can be teasing, but in it’s most aggressive form is openly mocking others to intentionally embarrass or hurt them.

Self deprecating humor – making fun of oneself – is often perceived positively by others and can be a sign of a healthy self image. Used to the extreme though, it can be harmful to your child. Watch for signs that show a constant use of self deprecating humor, especially when coupled with other signs of poor self esteem.

It’s important to remember these types of humor can be found in styles of humor ranging from slapstick to dry. The content is what is important more so than the style of delivery. Certain styles might incorporate more negative humor, but any style is susceptible to it.

Your children’s humor will be influenced by your sense of humor as well as the humor in any content they read or watch. Take some time to monitor your own humor. Is it mean or aggressive to yourself or others? Are your kids watching shows that make constant use of mocking and aggressive humor? Switching to gentler types of humor can make your kids more resilient, healthier and honestly godlier – as aggressive humor does not accurately reflect God’s love to others. It’s worth considering and discussing with your kids.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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