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Teaching Your Child to Have a Sense of Humour

Teaching Your Child to Have a Sense of Humour

You might think that a sense of humour is something innate. You’re either born with one, or you aren’t. I’m not a neurologist, so I can’t make claims about how brain wiring at birth determines how well your child can make, or take, a joke. But I do know, thanks to a recent study, that you can teach your kids to understand humour.

Here’s the short version of the short version of what the study says. When you goof around with your toddler, you are sending them cues in your body language and tone of voice. You're telling them that the joke you’re making isn’t the truth. Because of the unconscious cues you give, toddlers become quite adept at assigning different levels of belief & disbelief to jokes, pretend play, and reality.

That ability to separate reality from make-believe from joking is a vital part of “getting” a joke. There’s a common trope in science fiction: the non-feeling alien/robot can’t understand humour. Usually because he/she/it takes everything at face value. If most of the jokes we tell were true stories, many of them would be more than a little horrifying. Jokes are lies. And knowing something is a lie, and at the same time suspending your disbelief of it (we do this whenever we watch a movie or read a novel) is a big part of having a sense of humour.

Having a sense of humour (knowing when something is funny, and when something isn’t) isn’t the same as being funny. But I'm certain the two are linked. You can’t have the latter without the former.

A good sense of humour goes a long way towards a much better life. So get down on the floor with your kids and be a dork for them. Do it every day.

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