We’re currently trying to help our six-year old Small understand when something is a joke, and when it’s not. It’s a bit tedious, but it does take me back to being a child and not quite understanding why I was being told off for something that everyone found funny yesterday! The nuances of social interaction are more complex than they seem to us adults sometimes. Context is everything.
We’ve tried lots of different tactics to help him understand how to decide whether it’s a good idea to call someone a silly name or jump on their back at full speed. But the thing that seems to be helping is a series of questions my husband came up with.
Interestingly, I’ve found these questions seeping into my own thoughts this week when I’m in conversations or even just thinking about people I know. It’s been a high-pain week for me and that means I’m less patient with the kids (and possibly the adults in my life!) These questions have helped me slow down my reactions and think through how I judge people internally and respond to them externally.
I wanted to share them as they are proving so helpful to me!
- Is it kind? This is the foundation – it turns our thoughts to other people rather than our own impulses and needs. If what I am doing or saying might hurt someone else, I need to stop.
- Is it helpful? This one is about being active – does this action add to what we are doing, or detract? If it’s not helpful, we’re encouraging Small to think about what he can do that would have the opposite effect. For him, it might mean laying the table instead of getting in the way of me dishing up dinner. For me, it’s thinking about whether my words and actions are having an actively positive impact, or a negative one.
- Is it (genuinely) funny? Every child thinks it’s hilarious to call their sibling a Poo at some point. But there comes a time they need to realise it really.isn’t.funny! This last one seems less relevant to me at first glance. But again, at the heart of it is a choice to think about other people. All too often, we adults use humour to get a reaction without thinking about the impact on other people – I might make a joke at someone’s expense or say something that touches a nerve. Just like Small, I need to think before I share my witty quip.