Don’t Forget The Funnybone

By Mary

The other day my nine year old was having one of those terrible horrible no-good days. He was picking fights with everyone in sight and complaining about everyone, whether they were in sight or not. I grabbed him and playfully wrestled him over to the couch to sit snuggled against me. He put up a token resistance, just to prove his bad humor was serious. But by the time I had him on the couch, he was trying to hide a grin, and we were well on the way to a better mood.

First I let him spout off what he was mad about: a brother not sharing a video game. I asked him for a solution. He suggested that the unkind brother make his bed. I countered that the unkind brother really should shovel out the horse pen.

“Yeah!” he said enthusiastically.

“Or what about the driveway– I really think it needs to be scrubbed,” I said. “Maybe with a toothbrush.”

His lips twitched, but he again agreed enthusiastically. We went on in that vein for a couple minutes, suggesting increasingly silly punishments for the selfish brother, with each new over-the-top consequence bringing on more giggles.

Soon his mood was receptive enough that I was able to remind him that people do not always have to share their treasured possessions, and that he himself sometimes did not share. We brainstormed things he might be able to offer the brother in trade for sharing the game for awhile. Within minutes his mood had turned around enough that he was able to go try again with his brother, using the ideas we’d discussed. I would never have influenced his mood that powerfully with a stern ‘buck up– your brother doesn’t have to share’ lecture.

Since I am a fairly serious person, I have to consciously remind myself to go for the laugh. My husband, on the other hand, gets corny with the kids almost effortlessly. When he does, the children glow. And listen. No matter what your parenting tendencies are, humor can be a powerful ally. Try it today—you may just find that more effective parenting is as close as your kid’s funnybone.

Excerpted from A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family (Gibbs Smith, March 2009)

Mary Ostyn is a writer and the mother of 10 children. You can also find her writing at Owlhaven.

3 Responses to Don’t Forget The Funnybone
  1. Carrie
    June 29, 2009 | 4:28 pm

    This is such a great post. Thank you for this – what a great reminder. I take my 18-mo-old son to work with me, and often have to turn him away to get some work done – I bet if I took more time to giggle with him instead, our days would go better. 🙂

  2. Melissa
    June 30, 2009 | 3:50 pm

    isn’t it true? i do think that positive thinking is essential. my 5 month old quietens down when i dance with him.

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