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For the Love of God, Stop Laughing at Your Kids!

25 Jul

Now that we’ve all agreed that kids aren’t funny, let’s get to the real issue: We need to stop laughing at them.

Or we’re all gonna be in big trouble.

babies, cute, toddlers, discipline, fathers. fatherhood, parenting, Palin

Most little kids are super cute. They aren’t funny, but they say funny things, they do amusing things. They’re like the Three Stooges; it’s hilarious to see them hurt themselves as they stumble through childhood. Their ability to shrug those stumbles off, to keep smiling through their next inevitable facesmash, is one of the things that make them so adorable. Until you realize the endgame.

This is all an evolutionary ploy to help get both you and your children through the first several years of your relationship, to fool you into loving your kid unconditionally, to store up reserves of good will that can withstand the decades of hell that come once he gets older. This is genius-level stuff, put in place by Mother Nature, to ensure that children survive long enough – via biology and deception – to become self-aware and, eventually, self-actualized.

It’s like one of my favorite all-time movies, (the original) The Manchurian Candidate. Not even the toddler himself knows what he’ll become when the flip is switched, but in order to make it possible for him to control his own future, he must convince everyone else that he’s the the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being they’ve ever known in their lives. Early childhood is their only chance to lay this groundwork, since we parents haven’t seen but the tip of the iceberg of their child’s potential for infuriating behavior and are more than willing to believe the lie. Which only increases the danger.

The trick for parents is to see through the facade. To get out a stacked deck of Queen of Diamonds and nip it in the bud ASAP. There’s no way to prevent the oncoming hell of his older years, but via some good parenting and a commitment to only letting him see the best movies, you can hopefully make it a little less hellish. You can have one of the good ones. And the first step in making this happen is harder than it sounds: don’t laugh at your kid.

As the father of a (nearly) two-year-old, I know both how hard it is NOT to laugh at your kid when he does something absurd, and how detrimental it can be to encourage him. These kids thrive on attention and approval, and obviously you want to give it to them, but not all the time, and never at the wrong time. Laughing at your kids is particularly detrimental when you’re trying to discipline them. Nothing undermines your attempts at laying down the law more than a stray chuckle while trying to be being stern and authoritative.

Take the recent video of that little Palin kid calling his aunt “faggot” and drawing chuckles from his own mother. I’m no parenting expert (as we’ve discussed, there’s no such thing), but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that encouraging your kid when he says the darndest thing is not a good idea.

Let’s be honest: the odds are stacked against this kid already. But even if he wasn’t a member of that family, with that kind of parenting he’s not gonna turn out so great. At least not until someone pops him in the jaw while he’s walking into Chick-Fil-A.

If you show kids even the slightest sign of encouraging their goofiest, stupidest, worst behavior, they’re sure to repeat it, ad nauseum. You’ve signaled that you enjoyed it (and in this case you’ve signaled that the word “faggot” is okay), and since they live for approval, they’re going to do whatever they can to get it again, the best way they know how.

They’re like raccoons; give them a nibble one morning and soon they’re raiding your garbage cans every night.

As parents, we must band together. We must still love our kids, we must still encourage them, we must still laugh with them; but we must be aware of what is coming, that they won’t be cute and harmless forever, and we must be careful not to indulge their worst behavior. And we must do it together.

Because the only thing worse than a household overrun by raccoons is an entire society full, strewing garbage everywhere, with no one left to stop them.

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5 Responses to “For the Love of God, Stop Laughing at Your Kids!”

  1. Hannah July 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    As a mother to a 12 year old daughter and a 4 year old son, it sometimes amazes me that our species has survived all this time. And when I say sometimes, I pretty much mean every day. But you’re absolutely right that you have to be be stern when it comes to misbehavior. If you don’t let them know that it’s not acceptable, or worse, make them think it might be okay, they will forever think they can get away with it. Just one more thing that makes parenting the absolute hardest job in the whole world.

    As a sidenote about laughing at your kids, I’ll never forget the time my daughter was learning to ride her bike – in the rain – rode off the road, down into a ditch and flew over her handbars. Right into a yard more mud than grass. And stood up with mud all over her face and even in her mouth. Once my husband and I knew she was okay and not traumatized by the entire ordeal, I laughed so hard I cried. Good times.

    • Dad and Buried July 30, 2012 at 11:14 am #

      It’s all good once in a while, but if you end up with a teenager who never listens to a thing you say, odds are you laughed a few times too many when he was growing up!

      While disciplining your kids is obviously one of the hardest things to do, and behavior is such a hard thing to teach, the inherent entertainment value of such stupid, silly creatures can not be understated. And that’s the problem. It’s so easy to laugh that it can undermine your ability to control.

      But it will never NOT be funny watching my son face plant into the carpet. It’s amazing how often he falls on his face! And he doesn’t even drink that much!

  2. Emme Rogers July 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    That is hard not to laugh at some of the things they do, but know full well that even though they don’t understand what they are saying, you don’t want to encourage them to repeat it by reacting.

    • Dad and Buried July 30, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      It’s very hard, especially when what they’re doing, while potentially problematic if it persists, is usually pretty harmless in the here and now.

      Of course if he breaks something expensive or throws a huge fit in public, I won’t be laughing one bit.

  3. 46&2 mom August 2, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    THANK YOU for this! I have had too many kids around me who were/are laughed at (my steps). They have developed into rude, self-centered adolescent and teenaged people for whom living intentionally and controlling their impulses is very difficult. I am simultaneously annoyed by, but also saddened by how crippled they might be as young adults attempting to navigate a leap from home, only to make the hard choices faced by low-earning younger people, which is what this bunch face as they attempt to change their economic status (or not).
    The chances are good that they will not have the highest paying jobs after high school and they’ll need to get a room-mate. Except most people won’t have a room-mate who’s rude, gross (litters and leaves take-out cartons everywhere, doesn’t help with anything but has a generally rude attitude), and thinks he’s funny but he’s just incredibly self-centered and odd… they will kick him out, pronto!
    Who wants the adult spouse who’s never learned to sleep with the lights off because she had her fears coddled by a parent who claimed the faces the child saw were “deal souls watching.” Who wants to employ a former child whose mother cried with them while they were getting their first haircut, or at a new walker’s forehead goose-egg.
    Ultimately, however, there is usually a pattern to the people who would laugh at their kid, or cry with them over nothing, and accept their later fear of haircuts and everything else including: the dark, new places, group participation, being in a room alone (including the bathroom & his bedroom), being laughed at for still sucking their thumb. Those folks are also probably crippled adults who didn’t learn any better, either.

    TL;DR… Have a life before you make one. The kids you’re entrusted with raising will spend most of their lives as adults. You must prepare them for it with every moment you’ve got while they still let you, sometimes this includes letting them experience consequences for their actions while the cost is still “cheap” rather than when they’ve made big, adult-sized mistakes.

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