Behaviour problems? Try humour!

Behaviour problems? Try humour!
From discipline to humour. Here are some of her tips for managing three common types of conflict.

Émilie Ouellette, a cheerful mom of 2, has worked as a child social worker, comedian and therapeutic clown for several years. For the last 3 years, she has also run a workshop called “De la discipline à l’humour” (From discipline to humour) through various community organizations, for CPE (early childhood centre) educators, schoolteachers and parents. Here are some of her tips for managing 3 common types of conflict.

Your child is overexcited and can’t calm down. Solution: the laugh thermometer. Your child has to laugh, but you control the volume with your hand. When you lower your hand, your child has to laugh softly, and as you raise your hand higher, he has to laugh louder and louder. Then, when you shut your hand in a fist—silence! When you open it: unrestrained peals of laughter! Do this for 3-4 minutes. (Very useful as a prevention tool when you feel a situation is about to degenerate.)

Your child refuses to brush his teeth Solution: home dentist. Put on a pair of glasses (3D movie glasses or a big pair you made out of cardboard) and turn yourself into a crazy dentist. Brush your child’s forehead, ears and nose, pretending you can’t see what you’re doing, and end with his teeth. It’ll take 3 minutes to get the job done!

Your child is screaming because someone has taken his toy. Solution: the mirror. Scream like your child and tell him quite seriously: “Poor you! Are you all right? Did they take anything else? Your shoe? (touch his foot); Your sock? (check if he has his sock); Do you have all your hair? (count his hair); etc.” By becoming ridiculous, you de-dramatize the situation and give your child a chance to calm down and become more receptive. It then becomes easier to settle the conflict with him. “Humour must be seen here as complementary to the traditional methods of conflict resolution,” says the social worker.

Laughing in spite of illness
When life has taken a turn for the worse, humour can become a powerful ally in reducing a child’s anxiety and lightening the mood, explains Ouellette, putting on her therapeutic clown hat for the organization Dr Clown. The young patients at Sainte-Justine hospital and the Centre Hospitalier Mère-Enfant, whom she visits twice a week, agree. “When I put on my red nose, it’s as though everyone opens themselves up to emotions more easily,” she says. Laughter has a very positive effect on the children and their parents. It gives them back a piece of their childhood, creates a wave of well being, and gives families, who often feel fragile at this time, the strength to face the illness.

  • Humour increases self-confidence, downplays certain situations, reduces stress and stimulates the immune system.
  • A relaxed and open family environment enhances the development of a sense of humour.
  • Children only laugh when they feel safe.