We love humor. But…when disciplining our kiddos humor isn’t funny. 

When our child smirks and busts a gut during a serious moment, we feel as if those Fourth of July fireworks in our chest are ready to explode.

That grin. That giggle. OH! It feels like mocking.

Let’s consider some things before lighting the fuse.
  •          Humor usually brings people together.
  •      Humor  is a great deflector and distractor.
  •      Humor is a positive way to get attention.
  •     Humor can be a way to gain or regain control.
  •     Humor can be used to manipulate.
  •      Humor is an action. But laughter is a reaction.

Appropriate laughter we all enjoy. The right place, the right time. The right content.

Laughter is a physical response to an emotional trigger.

Have you ever said, “If I don’t laugh, I’m going to cry?”

Sometimes kids get the giggles or act silly when they feel uncomfortable or nervous. They may laugh or act like a jokester to reconnect or reaffirm the parent-child relationship.

When mom or dad express anger, it is possible the child is attempting to make things better with joke to defuse the situation. It’s also likely he is scared or uncomfortable and that a laugh is his reaction rather than to fight or take flight.

Observe your child. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps his reaction is due to fear. Maybe it is a way to reestablish the relationship.

No matter the reason, mom and dad must not ignite the wick. Stay in control.

During the moment mirror his non-verbal behavior: “You are smiling.”

Ask, “Are you feeling uncomfortable?”

After the event inquire, “Why do you think you smiled when I was speaking with you?”

Discuss more typical responses to anger or fear. Talk about how a smile during a serious moment can be misunderstood.
Once the behavior is verbalized it is easier for the child to draw up a more appropriate response.

If your kiddo uses humor as a tool to  alleviate discomfort come up with a different strategy. 
Commend him on how he has been blessed with a sense of humor. Talk about the right time and place for his antics. You may even want to use a visual or tactile cue to encourage appropriateness.

“Put on your left brain, logic hat. It’s time for us to talk about…..”
“My touch is a sign that this is important but not scary.”

In finding out the WHY of the chuckles you will be better equipped to deal with the anger inducing laughter during a serious moment. 

He will yet fill our mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
Job 8:21


Lori Wildenberg is co-founder of 1 Corinthians13Paretning.com, co-author of three parenting books, licensed parent-family education, and a mom of four. Contact Lori to speak at your next event. She is also available for parent consulting and coaching. 

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About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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