"If you find the right tone, humor can be an incredibly effective way to get kids and parents laughing through difficult situations. Keep in mind that young children are literal and may not always get a joke, but will love to laugh along with a parent. And school children hate sarcasm directed at them, but love being in on a witty joke."
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
Co-author, Raising Cain, Senior Project Advisor
Use humor — but not at your child's expense. Not every conflict needs to be resolved through serious discussion. Sometimes humor is the best way out. You might say, "Ouch, that hurts!" instead of "Don't talk to me that way, young man!" Rather than "Clean your room now!" you might say, "This place is a like a biology lab! I don't see mold yet, but it'll start growing soon!"
Try a playful approach, not a critical one. If you're struggling over what your preschooler should wear, try, "Let's see what you can put on your doll and then find something like that for you." You could joke with your school-age child about "how dumb I am" instead of criticizing him for criticizing you. You could even suggest ten minutes of your child's favorite activity before getting down to homework.
Focus on the positive before bringing up the negative. For example, if your child pulls a practical joke that makes a mess, you might say, "Clever. Ingenious. Now clean it up." If he brings home a test with mistakes, first comment on what he got right before discussing what he got wrong.
Admit your mistakes. Ask your child for help in figuring out what to do. Kids love to hear parents admit they were wrong. You might say, "Am I making a mess of this? Should we try to figure it out a different way?"
Tell a funny story about yourself as a child. Most kids love to hear stories about their parents growing up. You might tackle a tough topic by describing what happened to you in a similar situation when you were a kid. However, don't turn all conversations into stories about you. Constantly saying, "I know how you feel, let me tell you what happened to me," may annoy more than amuse.