“Laughter is the best medicine” – an old saying but relevant for all times. So on the 23rd day of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge, let’s talk about W for Wit. Wit and humor are ingredients that promise to spice up our lives in any given situation. Wit is a form of intelligent humor. It is the ability to say or write things that are clever or funny. Staying humorous is an attitude one can cultivate and being clever or witty is a skill one can sharpen.
The ability to understand humor is a development milestone in a child’s life. It plays an important role in the cognitive, social, moral and emotional development of children. A social smile appears around 3 months and a one year old may be cracking up at peekaboo, because she has understood that it is her father behind those hands, and he will reappear, even if he can’t be seen now. (this is when they understand that things continue to exist even if they can’t be seen). But you may need to be a bit more creative if you want to get a 2- 3 year old into hysterics. They have started to understand ‘where things belong’ – so out of place expressions or things will be considered funny – weird faces or sounds or an underwear on your head or straws in your ears will draw hysterical laughter. A 6 year old may just yawn at that and walk away. Because he has started to understand the interplay of language – and simple jokes and puns now catch his attention.
Needless to say that wit and humor will make one a happier person and more popular. Wit gives a perspective that is different from the obvious. It helps one become more spontaneous and is usually spurred by an unconventional way of thinking. Wit makes people stand apart from others. And most importantly wit and humor allow people to look at the brighter side of things and not take themselves too seriously.
So let’s look at a few ways in which we can cultivate a sense of humor in our children and sharpen their wits:
- Make them Laugh: depending on their age, find things that make them laugh. Children’s laughter is one of the best sounds in the world and I love it when my husband gets the kids in hysterics. Whether it is physical comedy like making funny faces or acting as if he has fallen off the balcony or telling funny stories, my husband has proven himself in eliciting peals of laughter from our kids. When you make them laugh and they enjoy the situation, they will try to copy you and try engage you in similar situations to make you laugh.
- Encourage their humor: it is not necessary that what is hilarious for your kids will sound funny to you too. Or they may keep repeating the same joke again and again (Yaawwn). But never mind, just laugh with them. I remember the time my son had just discovered knock knock jokes, he would keep trying to make his own – many of which didn’t make sense! But we laughed along anyway! Help develop their sense of humor by sharing jokes, funny books, comedy shows and laugh together. My older son loves puns and riddles kind of humor and we have a great time exchanging jokes on that and finding joke books to read.
- Help your child be aware of other’s feelings, moods, likes and dislikes: in order to make others laugh successfully, your child needs to be tuned into their moods and body language. This is not really something that can be taught per se but explained and shown as situations arise. For example, if their joke does not elicit a laugh from their friends – help them understand why that might have been so. Maybe the friends didn’t understand the context or that they were busy eating the cake and not attentive to the joke or maybe the joke itself was not a great one anyway.
- Develop their language skills: language or communication are a big part of being witty. Being is witty is essentially making unusual connections between words and ideas. Hence a strong grasp of language is required. Encourage them to build a strong vocabulary and hone their grammar. Teach them how to express something in as few words as possible – for an important part of wit is brevity. Hone their language skills so that they can understand underlying humour, puns, one liners, punches, irony and so on. Once they begin to understand those, they can start using them to form their own witticisms.
- Help them become quick thinkers: another important part of being witty is the timing. The ability to put two and two together, find an incongruity and make a remark about it is only one part of being witty. Unless this whole thought process is carried out in a split second, the joke will be lost. A fun exercise would be to name things in a room one by one very quickly – it shows how quickly you can come up with a name for everything. In the second round name everything again but not the actual name – instead use an associated word. E.g. clock – timer, fan – air cooler etc. Repeat this exercise often around the house and you will find words coming to your child more spontaneously.
- Practice extempore speaking: this is another fun exercise that makes children think on their feet. Give any topic and let the child speak about it for a minute or few minutes. Encourage the child to make funny associations if possible. Or play a game when you say something and the child has to come back with a witty remark.
- Teach them to laugh at themselves: this requires a high self esteem and also an acknowledgement of one’s faults. Let them be aware of their quirks, their family’s quirks. Laugh about these things with each other. If they feel someone has been teasing them – find out the reason why and turn it into something to laugh about. It will help them develop a thick skin and also learn to laugh at themselves.
- Talk about using the right body language: I touched upon this in my blog on language. While making a joke it is important to have a friendly, flexible body language so that people know you are joking. A tense body may give the signal that one is nervous or trying too hard – in both the cases, the humor will be lost. It is also important to know that the message and body language need to go hand in hand or the message won’t get through.
- Knowledge: aah I come back to knowledge once more. But in order to make unusual observations and connections, a vast repertoire of knowledge and experience is required. Of course this is something children will gain only as they grow up, but one can start pointing them in the right direction from the beginning.
- Teach them where to draw the line: finally and also most importantly children need to learn where to draw the line on humor. They should recognize whether the humor is bringing laughs or ending up hurting someone. Wit is a double edged sword and needs to be used carefully. Help children understand that it takes a lot of intelligence and creativity to be funny and kind at the same time. It is easy to make others laugh at the expense of someone else and we need to educate our children about the difference between good natured jokes and inappropriate or hurtful jokes.
Hope you find these tips useful and do share with me if you try some of them out.
Read my other blogs on the series here:
C is for Courage of Conviction
R is for Remembering your Roots
T is for Thinking Outside the Box