The Art of Parenting Silly Kids

Nov 6, 2015 8:29:15 AM / by Kathy McClelland


Out of frustration with my four-year-old's persistent silly behavior I turned to a parenting book* for advice. I knew I was in trouble when I read that if you are trying to discipline your child for pushing a friend, you should try saying, “Don't be a goober!’" The author stated that if you simply tell him not to push, you may not get much of a response.

A goober?


Was this so-called parenting expert telling me to join in the silliness?

I was shocked.

How many times could I play along when he turned out the lights in the whole entire house, put on his PJs when I told him to get dressed for school, or glued a coloring page to his stomach and declared that it was a giant sticker? (Okay, that one was pretty funny.) But I was done dealing with silly responses to serious questions and answering his "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke all day long.

My son didn't know when to be serious. Why would he choose that anyway? Silly is so much more fun. I tried to not tense up at the silliness until it started to get completely out of hand. I formed one-liners and recited them to him when the silliness did creep out-of-bounds:

"It's okay to be silly, but not if you're breaking a rule."

"It's never silly to lie."

"It's not a joke if you're the only one laughing."

As he started to understand the different times for different behavior, I began to learn the lesson God meant for me too. One day I heard myself tell him, "There's a time for silly and a time for serious," and I knew I needed to loosen up as mom. I needed to be sillier.

The more I learned about this age of development, the more convinced I became that silliness was maybe not such an all-bad thing. At four years old, kids love visual humor. When unexpected things happen, it makes them laugh out loud. I had a four-year-old comedian on my hands. He loved making people laugh.

I needed to appreciate my child's sense of humor. God was using his humor to keep me from being so serious all the time. And boy, did I need a good laugh from time to time.

My son's younger brother was born with severe special needs earlier that year. I was wading through grief and searching for hope and joy in the midst of incredibly painful circumstances. The Lord was providing me with levity. It was up to me to choose to be silly with my son and, therefore, choose joy.

As grown-ups, we find that funny things happen in our lives far less frequently than for our children. All our responsibilities and worries of this life can choke out our joy. Despite this, God still delights in you the same way as you delight in your preschooler, silly behavior and all.

*Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames, PhD, and Frances L. Ilg, MD (New York: Dell, 1989).

Originally Published 11/6/2015

Topics: Resources

Kathy McClelland

Written by Kathy McClelland

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