Towards 3 or 4 years old, children tend to take everything literally and burst into tears at the slightest thing, convinced they are being made fun of. It’s therefore important to remember that self-mockery requires a lot of self-confidence.
Your child may once have been so upset or afraid that she ended up crying when your initial goal was to make her laugh. This happened the first time Félix imitated a monster to make his son laugh; he completely terrorized him instead! This can also happen if you stay hidden for too long or if you laugh at a situation that involves a mishap on the part of your child (a blunder, mispronounced word, etc.). Towards 3 or 4 years old, children tend to take everything literally and burst into tears at the slightest thing, convinced they are being made fun of. It’s therefore important to remember that self-mockery requires a lot of self-confidence, which young children don’t always have.
If your child’s feelings are hurt, psychologist Bruno Fortin suggests you apologize, reassure your child and remind her that your goal is to have fun with her. The road to fun needs to be respectful, progressive and be properly balanced so that your child isn’t afraid, continues to trust you and maintains a positive image of herself. If she gets hurt by the comments of another person, it’s important not to say it doesn’t matter because obviously, for your child, it does. You can help her decipher the situation by explaining that there may perhaps be another way of interpreting the words that were spoken. And if she’s the one doing the laughing and hurting someone else, it’s important to explain to her that there are some things we can’t laugh at.
Laughing also means making someone else laugh, and some children, encouraged by a receptive audience, can become regular little clowns. In a group, the effect can be contagious. To avoid general overexcitement and accidents (for example, a child who chokes while eating or who can no longer control her movements to the point of falling, etc.), it’s better to agree on a sign or sound beforehand with your child, to let her know when it’s time to calm down. You can also suggest a calm game to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
Night art. Draw fish on your children’s cheeks while they’re sleeping and put nail polish on your spouse’s nails!
Wacky breakfasts. Put a few drops of food colouring in your child’s glass of milk and two raisins in your spouse’s cup of coffee (surprise guaranteed at the last sip).
Growth spurts. Stuff newspaper in the toes of shoes. The children will think their feet grew overnight! (You can tell them it’s because of the coloured milk they drank earlier, which was most probably magic milk that makes feet grow!)
Aquatic TV. Replace the remote control batteries with little paper fish.