I see many parents and their children in my practice. They come to therapy for a variety of different reasons, but a common theme I see is the need for a sense of humor when it comes to parenting. Don’t get me wrong, I know what a serious responsibility it is to raise a kid, I have 5 of my own. There is so much pressure to have kids that are well behaved, smart, polite, athletic, artistic, spiritual, creative, etc. And when we don’t have the perfect child, we know as parents that it is somehow our fault no matter what anyone says. Or maybe I am the only one who feels the pressure?
Something that has helped me immensely is to lighten up and have a sense of humor, both with myself and with my kids. Over and over I will have a kid in my office who does something that the parent finds annoying, and I can smile or even laugh. It’s easy for me right, they are not my kid! That’s the point. We need to step back sometimes and not take everything so personally and seriously. For example, next time your kids has a perfectly illogical reason for why he/she just couldn’t get their room cleaned, sit back and admire their creativity rather than instantly getting angry. Smile, laugh even! Come on, you know it’s funny! They are not going to turn out to be a criminal because you found humor in some of their crazy excuses for not getting things done or why something happened. They still need to get their room cleaned, obviously, but compliment them on their entertaining creativity and thank them for making you smile.
When one of my kids was young, he used to tell me he couldn’t eat broccoli because it “skinnied his chin”. I could not get any further explanation as to what he meant or where he got that idea, so I just went with it. I told him that of course he shouldn’t eat broccoli then because that could be a problem if his chin kept getting skinnier. No fight, no trying to convince him otherwise, and no tears. Any time I served broccoli I just didn’t give him any, and the family all knew that for whatever reason it was a problem for him, and we just let it be ok. It kind of became a family joke which he took part in and we all could see the humor while still respecting that this was important to him.
Several years later when I made broccoli he decided to try some totally on his own. He ate some, and decided it was not so bad – not great like chocolate, but not bad. We finally realized that when I put lemon juice on the broccoli, he was trying to explain that it STUNG his chin he just didn’t have the right word! That is one of our great family jokes and one of his favorite stories that we love to remember and laugh about now!
My point is, some things just aren’t worth the fight, and can bring some humor into your lives. I could have chosen to believe that he was being rigid and defiant and insisted he eat the broccoli because I am the mom and I said so, which would have made all of us miserable. I knew that something real was happening for him even if I didn’t understand it, and I just let it be ok.
Take a step back; relax. You are not going to fail your child if you loosen up a little bit and laugh at some of the craziness that goes on in your house. Save the fight for another day; for something worth fighting over. For today, see if you can choose laughter.