10 Ways That Laughter Can Transform Your Day

from the hand in hand blog(2)

By Kate Orson


In our lives with a young child there may be many challenging moments that make us feel stressed out, serious, and frustrated, getting locked in a power struggle with our kids. A lot of these occur when we want our child to do something that they don't want to do. The more we try to force the issue the more our child resists.

Hand in Hand Parenting is all about redistributing the power balance, being flexible with our kids, and then seeing their own flexibility and natural co-operation shining through.

Playlistening is what we call it, when we put ourselves in the less powerful role, to get the giggles going. Laughter releases the tension our child feels and builds connection between ourselves and our child. After a bit of laughter our child is often much more likely to co-operate with us. It's a powerful effective way to get out of a power struggle and on with the day.

Here are ten awkward moments where laughter can save the day. Repeat as necessary until the giggles (or you!) are exhausted.

#1. Getting Dressed – If you're toddler's refusing to get dressed it can leave you feeling irritated and impatient, but luckily there's plenty of fuel for giggles in the dressing process. Try putting on a ‘serious,' voice and say, ”come on now lets put these trousers on' and end up putting them on their arms. Put their socks on their hands, or their pants on their head. Put their cardigan on back to front, or their feet in the arm holes. Children absolutely love it when we make mistakes. It helps to build their confidence when they can be the competent one, telling us that we are getting it all wrong. And then they'll be sure to tell us the right way to put on their clothes, and maybe even co-operate!

#2. Brushing Hair – When my daughter refused to let me brush her hair she would instantly change her mind if a teddy or doll wanted to do it. Somehow the teddy was always much more gentle than me, and never accidentally pulled too hard. If a bit of laughter is needed try brushing your child's hair with other household objects like a spoon or a sock, and then exclaim, ”Oh dear! That's not a hairbrush, I keep getting it wrong.”

#3. Getting Out of The House – Grab a teddy or doll, and try to put your child's coat and shoes on. Take them to do the door, and say ”come on (child's name) it's time to go,” then suddenly realise your mistake, and exclaim, ‘oh dear, that's not the right person! Let me try again.”

#4. During Mealtimes – Toddler's can be fussy, and often their fears and anxieties can be projected onto food. Put yourself in the less powerful role, by being playfully afraid of your food. Pick up a fork of food, scrunch up your nose and, ”Oooh I don't know what this strange food is.” Or try picking food up with your fork, and keep dropping it by ‘mistake.' Or try feeding your ears or nose, and then exclaim with mock frustration that you keep getting it wrong. After a few giggles your toddler may forget all about being cautious and get on with the meal.

#5. If your toddler is having trouble sharing – then grab an object and say invitingly, ”this is my car/doll/toy, and I don't want anyone to take it off me.” Let your child creep up to you, grab the object and run away. Chase them but always let them win, so they are the powerful role. Repeat with another object or the same one if they put it down. This and similar games help your child to release competitive feelings and be more generous with friends.

#6. When your toddler's being clingy – Say, ”oh there's a baby stuck to me, how did she get there? ” Try to unstick yourself but always let them win. As you shower them in playful affection, they can release their clingyness with giggles.

#7. If your toddler is aggressive – then turn the tables around, and let them fight you. Playfully catch their kicks, or punches, have a pillow fight, or try some roughousing which has been shown to reduce aggression in children. Giving children an outlet for their feelings in play with you, means they don't need to bring them up with other children.

#8. When your toddler is whiny or moaning, or complaining abut being bored – Have a clothes fight! Grab some clothes, and divide family members into teams. Have one team on a bed trying to throw clothes onto the floor, and another team on the floor trying to throw the clothes onto the bed. This is a great mood shifter. Let the fun and giggles commence!

#9. Cleaning Teeth – Pretend to clean your kids ears, or nose, and keep exclaiming that you are getting it wrong. Or try to brush your kid's teeth and end up with a flying toothbrush that keeps landing in surprising places like the bath, sink, or even another room instead of your child's mouth.

#10. Bedtime – When there's still time to play in the evening, put your child into their bed, and then say invitingly, ”I hope you don't get out of bed, ” and leave the door open, as you leave. Let them run out of the room and appear. Act all surprised and then say, ”Oh dear, I better get you back to bed again.” Repeat until any excess energy or tension has disappeared, and your child is happy to go to sleep for real. Laughter induces melatonin the sleep hormone, so this is the perfect way to end the day.

I hope this list makes your day go more smoothly. Are there any other scenarios that you'd like a ‘laughter cure' for? Leave me a comment, and I'll try to think up some games!

Kate OrsonKate Orson is a Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor, and mother to a 4 year old daughter. Originally from the UK she now lives in Basel, Switzerland. She is the author of Tears Heal, How To Listen To Our Children, which will be published in 2016. Connect with Kate on Facebook or follow her blog.

Join Kate in her next online parenting class.


13 thoughts on “10 Ways That Laughter Can Transform Your Day”

  1. We love this playful approach, it’s got us out of a lot of tricky spots! My 6yo is scared of dogs. We play lots of games at home where a toy cuddly dog is out of control and we fling him at each other and shriek, but do you have any tips for playfully dealing with dogs while we’re out and about? Thanks!

  2. Hi Amanda, I love the dog game, thanks for sharing! Is your son afraid of all dogs or just bigger ones dogs? You might try pretending to be afraid of a small dog in a playful way, and that might get the giggles flowing if you’re acting really afraid of a tiny dog! Or you could playfully run away together, and hide. It might be that in a real life situation, he’s more likely to need to staylisten about the feelings rather than playlisten. And then you might try slowly approaching a dog you know and trust, to see if that brings up feelings he can release so that he can build his confidence around dogs. I hope this helps!

  3. Potty training! We can end the day accident free, but only if I put a diaper on my son for his morning and afternoon poops. If he’s in underwear or naked and feels the urge to go, he panicks and starts sobbing. He’s gone twice outside his diaper, both times when we were in the shower. It was definitely dramatic as we were both dripping wet, opening the shower, letting in cold air, getting paper to clean it up, not stepping in it or letting it go down the drain… Now I think he is terrified to go outside his diaper. We’ve done lots of talking (and showing.. eeek) about the process, but he just seems terrified still. Maybe laughter is the next step, but… Gross! How do I help him move past this?

    1. Hi Kelsey, The HIh tools can help a lot with any underlying fears about the whole process, and laughter can be a great way of releasing fear, and making everything seem relaxed. One thing that always works well is if you reverse the situation, for instance if you become the person terrified of using the toilet, or going in the bathroom, you could say to your son, ”Oh I don’t need the toilet right now, I hope no-one makes me go into the bathroom!” and your son can be the powerful one, pushing you in there. He might laugh a lot and get to release some fear that way.
      Here’s an article about using special time to help. Here’s one on using playlistening. And here’s one using staylistening.

  4. Homework? My 6 year old resists doing his 2 worksheets almost every day! What should take 15 minutes takes 2 hours sometimes.

  5. Hi Suzanne, homework can be tricky as after a day at school children often need some time to decompress, and play freely. You could try special time before tackling the homework or some playful roughhousing, and then see if he’s more able to focus.
    You could also sit down with the homework and say something like, ”I hope you don’t run away, when we try to do your homework,” in an inviting playful way, that actually encourages him to run away. I have tried similar games with my daughter, which actually encourage the ‘misbehaviour’ and then after a while, she will get it all out of her system and be ready to co-operate. If you try this, and see if he then is ready to do the homework. If after lots of play he’s still not in a good space to do the homework, then it might be too much for him after a day at school.

    Here are a few articles that might help, https://www.handinhandparenting.org/2014/05/helping-child-homework-struggles/


    let me know how you get on!

  6. Hi – our son 3 in May (Jan 2016 now) will not stop hurting 1 year old sister no matter what approach we take, really losing our minds.. He will do it blatantly and discreetly but affect still the same our daughter ends up crying… Help?! Please….

    1. Hi Allan, I’m sorry you’re having such a stressful time. The Hand in Hand approach really helped me when my daughter was biting me on a daily basis, and although it takes some time and effort it does work. Tip 7 has some links to articles about aggression, and here is another one https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/children-hitting-biting-pushing-helping-children-with-aggression-2/

      Hand in Hand parenting also has a great online self-study course for helping with aggression. You can find out more here, http://shop.handinhandparenting.org/products/helping-your-child-with-aggression-1#oid=16_3

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