As fathers, we should all actively observe April Fool’s Day — not by playing cruel tricks on our children, but by celebrating those relationships with lots of laughter. Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” You already know this, of course. Many dads just naturally bring out the funny, playful side in their kids.
If lately you’ve been caught up in the serious and sober realities of raising children, use today as a good excuse to renew your spontaneous and slightly mischievous side as a dad. A good dose of laughter can open doors and restore a positive outlook, and it promotes health — physically, developmentally, and relationally. For your children, laughter will help them develop higher creative and coping skills because humor and creativity both draw on “divergent thinking” — they learn to explore new and unexpected ideas as they seek to solve problems and handle situations. You’re likely to have better communication as well. Laughter makes you more approachable, especially if you can laugh at yourself.
To Think About …
Here are two ways you can laugh with your kids and help build their divergent-thinking abilities:
- Use make-believe — especially with younger kids. Researchers have found that encouraging imagination and fantasy is essential for brain activity and stimulation. Through play, kids manipulate objects and ideas and expand their understanding of the real world. Your child probably doesn’t need help playing make-believe. What he does need — once in a while — is for you to join him there. So, let yourself go. Shake hands with “imaginary friends.” Use your silly voice. Make the chair talk and the flowers sing.
- Encourage a lot of wordplay. This is particularly effective as your child’s reading and writing skills are emerging, around first or second grade, but it’s great for kids at any age. Riddles, puns, jokes, and brain teasers all lay the foundation for divergent thinking that will help your kids become problem solvers down the road. And, in all seriousness, when your child makes up a new word by combining two real words, don’t be too quick to correct her. Instead, celebrate her creativity.
See more father-child humor in Jay Payleitner’s article on knock-knock jokes, or some Top 10 lists from our archives, like the Top 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Help with a Household Project or the Top 10 Things a Teenage Daughter Doesn’t Want to Hear from Her Dad.
In the Trenches …
Our CEO, Carey Casey, is spending his April Fool’s Day in Houston at the Final Four — no joke! His alma mater, North Carolina, was eliminated last weekend, but Carey is there for another reason: the annual convention of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), where for the 5th time he will deliver a fathering workshop and speak at a luncheon to encourage the coaches personally as fathers and help them recognize the importance of their role as father figures for their players. Carey also writes regular articles for the NABC’s Time Out magazine for coaches. Carey’s article for this year’s convention issue is called “Coaching for Life.” See the magazine online.
ACTION POINTS for Committed Dads
Have everyone help with a funny family video. (And pull it out next time everyone is frustrated, depressed, or just needs to laugh.)
● Study your children and immerse yourself in their world, even if it means leaving your comfort zone, so you can figure out what makes them laugh. Hang out together, read their books, and listen to their stories.
● Make up your own knock-knock jokes with your kids or have everyone contribute ideas for a family “Top 10″ list.