Diminishing Anger with Humor

“I could fix this if I just had some duct tape.” – MacGyver (fictional TV character who resolved impending disasters at a moment’s notice with common household items)

Humor is my own personal duct tape. Why? Because humor can “fix” some tense family situations.

Take children’s anger for instance. Children of all ages become angry and that’s normal; but it can create stressful situations. When my son was five, I bought him his favorite action figure. But when we got home and opened the package, it wasn’t, after all, the exact figure that he wanted. He angrily threw the figure across the room. Shocked, I wanted to say, “How dare you throw that brand-new toy!” or, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a toy!” but that would have discounted his anger and/or escalated it. So, instead, McGyver-like, I picked up the toy and shouted directly into the action figure’s face, “Messed-up, no-good, wrong action figure.” My son could not help but laugh at my ridiculous words.

But my son and I learned several lessons that day:
• mistakes usually can be remedied (in the case of the wrong toy, it could be returned);
• think before you act;
• work on impulse control;
• use humor to lighten up tense moments;
• problems that might make us angry, in the grand scheme of things, may not be so monumental.

Caveat: humor cannot be used in every circumstance; use humor only when the time seems right; not when a situation is truly serious. And, please, no sarcasm. Children do not understand sarcasm; they take what you say literally. But when used properly, humor can alleviate tension and teach some good behaviors.

So, parents, during tense family situations, ask yourself, “What would MacGyver do?” and keep your duct tape at the ready.

by Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator

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