Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers in 2001, to research the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research in what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.
This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s wellbeing and quality of life across the globe.
Strength #10 Humour
5 TOP TIPS FOR FOSTERING HUMOUR IN YOUR CHILD
I met my husband on Match.com in 2002 and top of the list of what I was looking for in a partner was ‘GSOH.’ For me, a good sense of humour is so attractive, and essential in a life partner if you are to weather the ups and downs of life and relationships. As it turns out, humour is a pretty good thing to look for in someone else, be it friend, colleague, or partner. A great sense of humour is a real indicator of high emotional intelligence, positivity and is a key part of the strength of social intelligence. Don’t we all want someone who will walk beside us, help us to overcome barriers and obstacles, help us to always look on the bright side, and not take ourselves too seriously? Guess what? These characteristics are all skills of resiliency, the ability to thrive even in the face of adversity, and all contribute to happiness and well-being. Attractive or what?!
We know that resilience is such a vital trait in our children. We can’t always protect them from experiencing stress and distress, but we CAN help them to develop the skills to be able to handle those moments well, grow in the face of challenge, and continue on. Perhaps not untouched, but hopefully undamaged. A strength of humour can help them with this enormously.
Humour can also really help well-being, as it’s been shown to ease stress and boost the immune system. Win, win!
Here are my 5 top tips to fostering the strength of humour in your child:
1. Be Funny (I know, I know - I say this every time!)
The best way kids can learn how and when to be funny is by observing you and by experiencing you being humorous yourself. From Day 1, you can use physical comedy, like making silly faces. You can also make funny sounds – and go on to telling funny stories, rhymes, and jokes. It’s also really important to be easy-going and laugh off small incidents like spilled drinks, minor trips and hurts, and broken toys. Laugh a lot, in front of your children, with friends and family and they will see the value of humour and laughter.
2. Be Reactive
If your child does something funny, react to it with a smile and laughter! A messy face, messy activity, peek-a-boo, funny sounds, funny outfit, telling jokes, telling a funny story… The list is endless. Reacting to your child’s humour teaches them that they have the ability to make others laugh and smile – and that’s a powerful and wonderful skill.
3. Be Proactive
Bring in resources and opportunities to enjoy humour together. By making humour part of your everyday life, your child is more likely to continue the habit. There are lots of funny books out there – picture and rhyming books for younger ones; comics and joke books for older children. Sing funny songs and rhymes, make them up together – the sillier the better! Tell jokes — especially bad ones — regularly (you can get some great joke books). Play games that require you to act silly, some board games are great for this – Twister/Pictionary/Charades… Indulge in imaginary play together, play silly shops, “Can I have some purple sausages please?!” Dress up together and face-paint each other. Watch a funny film, do funny voices… you have the power to inspire humour in your child and make some great memories together as you do so.
4. Be Positive
Try turning not-so-fun chores, like tidying up toys or doing cleaning activities, into a game. By doing this you'll not only win points with your kids as a 'fun adult', but you're also more likely to get them to help without reluctance, refusal, or an argument. At the same time, you're teaching them that even the most boring and tiresome things in life can be made fun when you incorporate your own sense of humour. If your child makes a mistake or gets things wrong, treat it lightly and get them to understand it’s not a huge problem – but a way to learn and do things better. Using humour in these kinds of situation can really help your child de-stress. Reacting to setbacks and problems with a positive outlook, looking on the bright side and having a chuckle over things that go wrong, is a great lesson for life.
5. Be Aware
Humour should have boundaries! Sometimes your child's humour might sway into off-colour, or mean-spirited territory. Children often copy what they have heard from others – without really thinking about what they are saying. Always make sure you address this with an explanation of why what they have said/done is not so funny, or might hurt others. Explain that making fun of people is always wrong.
If you laugh often, your children will laugh with you. They will indulge in silliness and jokes, because they see that it is of value, it’s a bonding experience, something you share together and a source of great enjoyment. They will begin to understand that humour and laughter make them feel good, and in times of stress and worry can make them feel better. I think the best way to help your child build the strength of humour is to try to make THEM laugh from the outset. They will then want to make YOU laugh and their sense of humour will blossom before your eyes. What a very life-enhancing skill to have – for them, and for everyone around them!