A little practical parenting advice: this habit can be devastating to our children because they really do care what we think. Maybe it’s time to reframe the “norm” and reconsider what we consider a joke.
Laughter is one of my love languages. One of my favorite things about my husband is how he makes me laugh. We laughed a lot in our home as the kids grew up. So much so that sometimes I would tell the girls, “Stop laughing at your brother and your daddy. You’re just encouraging them.” Their response was always, “Good!”
Telling Jokes on your kids can have Unintended Effects
We also speak the language of sarcasm, lovingly gigging each other with well-placed quips.
I would tell stories on the kids, especially my son, who was a handful.
He gave me lots to tell. I’m a story-teller. It was all in good fun.
Until one day.
My husband started noticing that our son would make comments like, “After what I’ve heard about how hard it was to raise me, I’m thinking twice about having kids,” or “What y’all put up with as my parents,” etc.
My husband began to see that the joking had subtly affected our son’s perspective about our perspective. Even if it was minor. Even if it was innocent. Even if it was “all in good fun.”
I watched their father begin to be intentional with his words to our son and then our daughters. My man of few words had always measured his out carefully, but now he was even more deliberate. He challenged me to rethink what I said, both in private and public. Words matter. (I should know that as well as anyone.)
But how do you merge a family who laughs with and at each other with a decision to be more encouraging?
Practical Parenting: How we made this small change
We didn’t make major changes. We didn’t exchange light-hearted conversations for the deeper meaning of life. We just trimmed a little sarcasm and added a few more affirmations.
I stopped telling jokes on my kids MORE THAN I praised them.
And I stopped telly ANY joke that couldn’t be wrapped into something positive.
We still tell jokes. There are stories of their childhoods that are classics and make for the greatest blog material and social media posts. But I only tell them now if I can use them to illustrate a desirable quality in the grown child. There are also some quintessential stories that are “child-approved” and they even tell them on themselves.
I still reference the “work” it was to parent, but never (at least that’s the goal) without talking about how the return on investment more than paid for itself. In fact, I hit the jackpot. The lottery. More than I ever deserved or possibly could have “worked” for.
Changing the Culture
We live in a culture that is obsessed with making jokes at others’ expense.
My mom tells the story of seeing an episode of “Good Times” back in the 70’s. The moment made a memory because that was the very first time she personally had seen a put-down get a laugh track.
How far we’ve come, right? It’s the normal, accepted, “in” thing to do — even with our children.
Maybe it’s time to reframe the “norm.” Reconsider what we consider to be a joke. And remember that laughter is never by itself an indicator of whether it’s ok with the one who’s being laughed at.
We don’t have to lose the laughter but we can reframe the jokes, stop and think before we say something flippant, and add in more words that lift up instead of tear down. Those few steps could be culture-shifting and life-changing within the walls of our own homes.
As parents — even parents of grown children — we hold in our hands the ability to shape their thoughts. My own parents STILL have the power to lift me up and inspire me to think that what I’m doing here matters.
So I’ll leave you with this last little practical parenting tip to think about:
Whether they act like it or not,
our children care what we think about them.
Our external dialogue is writing their internal script.
Let’s make sure it’s one where they are the hero,
not the villain, the scapegoat, or the moron.
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Christi, Our family is currently dealing with some major pain and damage done from lightheartedly discussing things that were better left unsaid in a family setting. I also have been seeing the damage done from letting our family default be sarcasm and course jesting. Thanks for the great post! I actually just did one on “pecking” like Woodpeckers on each other’s faults. Lots to chew on (no pun intended!). Hah.
Thank you for adding to the conversation about this. You have so much wisdom to share on this subject I’m sure. We just never know what is behind the smiles and laughs, do we?
Christi, this is an excellent post. You’re making me think here. Do you know my family ALWAYS joked about what a bad driver I was when I was 16-18. I have a great family, but they always joked about it. Do you know that all my life, I always thought I was a bad driver. Until I was about 45. Then I thought, “Wait a minute. I’ve never had an accident. Never gotten a speeding ticket. And I’m a bad driver?…I don’t think that’s true.” Can you imagine it took me 20 years to realize I’m a good driver. :-) Words have power.
Betsy, thank you so much for adding your thoughts. I have been pondering your comment for days, but just realized I didn’t reply until now. Such insight here and so much we can learn from others. Thank you again for making me think!
Ah Christi, I loved this. I’ve always been somewhat careful about telling jokes on the kids because my second is particularly sensitive, but I do have one coming up now who…well, would make it fairly easy. Not in a dumb, rude, or horrible way. But in a he stuck an eraser up his nose just like his namesake (my dad) did way. I will proceed with caution, thank you!
They do give us such material, don’t they :) I appreciate how you know your children well. It’s not necessarily an all or nothing thing, but a “think before you joke” kind of mindset. Thanks for being here!
What a great reminder, Christi! Oh, that we not get a laugh at someone else’s expense!
Like you, I love to laugh. But, I never want to have to put someone else down to do so. And, I really HATE it when people make jokes at my expense.
Thanks for the really good word today.
Hope you survive all of that snow!
Thanks, friend! Appreciate you and your encouragement always!
When “Good Times” came out years ago, I remember thinking
I didn’t find the “jokes” very funny, and I especially didn’t like
the way the parents never spoke up and corrected their children
when they made jokes about each other. Calling someone
“ugly” or “stupid” or “moron” is NOT funny, even if they laugh
along with you, those words are harmful when done over a long
period of time. I feel social media has in so many ways made it
“okay” to joke at someone else’s expense. If we could all learn to
speak words of encouragement to each other instead of using
words to hurt someone else, how much better off we’d all be.
I remember seeing someone with a t-shirt that said: “IT’S ONLY
FUNNY UNTIL SOMEONE GETS HURT” How true that is!!
One of my favorite scriptures is Luke 6:31 “Do unto others
as you would have them do to you.” If it’s something we would
not want someone to say about us, then don’t say it about
someone else. I know I need to practice this more often, with
These are good words. I’ve seen some parents who have set sarcasm as the default language in their home. It makes me cringe and I wonder what the children really think down deep inside. Appreciate you adding your words to this trail!
YES and Amen. I have to be so careful with this. I actually make my Swillers read my posts before going live just in case they would be hurt. I have hurt in the past, and asked forgiveness. Not big hurts, but still.
But there’s SO MUCH MATERIAL!!! lol. Still. There’s a way to say it without giving the whole bank away.
Always love your words, Tex! praying for you and your big thang over there! (And possible book!)
Thanks! We so get each other on this topic don’t we? I’m glad you are out there telling the good stuff and encouraging young mamas to see it all as a gift, regardless of what hat they have on at the moment!
They probably have on the same hats we do right now – the snow cap! ;)