Kid rules: Learning to laugh at yourself

Putting on flip-flops

The other day, my nearly-three year old put on her dad’s flip-flops, wobbled into the garden and promptly fell over. And I laughed so hard I almost wet myself.

“You NOT laugh Mummy!” Scolded my child. “It NOT funny!”

That’s when I realised I was about to teach her a big lesson. One that’s right up there with being kind to people and remembering to say “please” and “thank you”.

Because, for me, having the ability to laugh at yourself is a hugely important quality. Not taking yourself too seriously helps you negotiate the tricky patches of life with a smile. It helps you rise above people who put you down, and sail through awkward situations with a winning grin. In short, it makes life so much bloody easier.

Kneeling down, so that my face was eye-level with my daughter’s, I spoke to her. “Remember when we were at Sainsburys that time?” She nodded. “And then I dropped the shopping by the big doors?” A moment of recognition. “And then I bent over to pick it all up and that gust of wind blew up my skirt?” (She’s smiling now) “And you shouted ‘MUMMY I CAN SEE YOUR BUM!'” A broad grin. “It was funny wasn’t it?”

Squealing with delight, my toddler clapped her hands. “You showed your bum! It funny!”

And I agree. It was funny. In that situation I could have scuttled off, red-faced and tearful, in the knowledge that the old bloke behind me had just got an eyeful of my holey Primark pants. But I didn’t. Because it was funny. Instead, I cracked (*ba-da-boom*) a joke and picked up my shopping, chuckling with my tot at my own misfortune.

As I walked past people, they smiled. One lady even laughed that the same thing had happened to her just the other week (they really should do something about that wind tunnel).

Remembering that day had an immediate effect on my toddler, who’d been indignant just seconds earlier.

“I not hurt Mummy,” She said. “It funny, ha ha ha!” And with that, she skipped off smiling.

It’s a lesson my own parents taught me. With his disarming self-deprication my dad can win over even the grumpiest person. My mum’s warm laughter and “gung-ho” attitude to pretty much anything inspired me to try all sorts of activities as a kid, regardless of if I thought I’d be any good at them. I didn’t care if I failed, as long as I enjoyed myself in the process.

And that’s why learning to laugh at yourself is, in my opinion, a key lesson in life. Of all my friends, there’s not one who is self-important or arrogant. The people I see in my life as successful are the ones who possess the power of banter, the odd bit of self-deprication and aren’t so obsessed with appearing “the best” that they actually end up being, well, the best.

When they laugh, people laugh with them. When they have something important to say, people listen. And when they mess up occasionally, they admit it.

This is what I want to teach my child. It’s OK to laugh at yourself. Because if you can’t find the funny in accidentally flashing your bum at Sainsburys, the world will be a very dull place.



  1. Mrs W says

    As a Mum, the ability to laugh at yourself in cringe worthy situations is a VITAL skill – well, in my opinion it is anyway, especially as my Daughters are the QUEENS of sharing inappropriate information (to the Lady in Sainsburys “We’ve just been to the Drs – he was playing with Mummies Bottom…..”) or shouting things rather louder than they should without realising how bad they sound (round the aisles in Asda, after playing at creating silly sentences “HURRAY!!! COCK-PORN!!” …she had a bag of POPCORN in her hand at the time)
    We have one Daughter who gets VERY upset if she thinks people are laughing AT her, but she is slowly figuring out that it’s ok to laugh at yourself (and other people) when something genuinely funny happens…..

  2. Ghislaine Forbes says

    This made me laugh! It also reminded me (in my last year of teaching) of arriving late for a class in a bit of a flap, chucking my coat off only to be told by two lovely girls that my skirt was tucked up into my pants. If I hadn’t just been to the loo I think I might have wet myself as I laughed and laughed. It was a funny start to a lesson and thankfully only two sensitive girls caught a sight of my M and S pants! The rest thought it was hilarious even though they saw nothing; laughter is infectious. I love the photo but please let F not have such huge feet as a grown up. ma x

    • says

      Mother, there have been many times when you’ve flashed more than just your pants. Remember the pedallo and the glass bottom boat in Majorca that time? Wonder where I get it from?! x

  3. says

    You’ve really made me think Molly. I am going to be more Gung Ho! Z tries lots of things but struggles if he doesn’t have safety net of a good friend nearby…I wonder if my fear of him getting upset is coming off as me being unenthusiastic?

    • says

      I think all children are different and all mums are different. As always, what works for some isn’t right for others. In my case, I was a pretty sensitive kid, but I think my mum’s attitude kind of helped me loosen up a bit and lose a bit of that fear of being shown up etc. I know that now, at the age of nearly 30, I’m certainly more like her than I was as a child. Mind you, my husband would argue that’s not necessarily a good thing…

  4. says

    This really made me laugh!!!
    I think you are so right, being able to laugh and not be embarrassed all of the time is really important. I didn’t have much of this skill when I was young and am constantly learning it now as an adult. Teaching your daughter from a young age will do her wonders, and it is something I will try to teach my little one too.
    Keep smiling! :-) xx

    • says

      Different people deal with situations in different ways – but I know I find things a load easier when I can laugh at them. Even if they don’t seem hugely funny at the time (like flashing your bum to Sainsburys… mortifying).

  5. says

    This is something I need to work at with Kitty – she gets into such grumps about things she muffs up as being NOT FUNNY AT ALL MUMMY when actually, they are bloody hysterical half the time!

  6. says

    Lovely post. You’re spot on and you’ve got me thinking. Would my little girl be able to laugh at herself and you know, I’m not sure. Sometimes maybe, but all the time, hmmm. My son on the other hand is a definite yes! Need to work on big sister I think.

    • says

      I guess different kids are different – just like adults. I know I have it in me to take myself too seriously sometimes, which is why it’s good I have a family who don’t let me!

  7. says

    So true! Kids and adults need to laugh at themselves more. Life is serious enough! The other day my kid needed a wee at a supermarket that had no toilet. I got to the back and helped him wee over some shubbery hidden at the back out of people’s view. He proceeded to wee on my hand-joyous and was laughing hard. I kept saying, “OOh that’s yucky, yucky, yucky” to which he replied, “it is yucky and it’s funny!” Couldn’t disagree!

  8. says

    we’ve laughed at and with our son since he was far too young to have any idea what was going on.

    From playing practical jokes with him on each other (always a gem) to laughing our loud at pratfalls it has led to us having a fun relationship with him.

    Of course the fact that he knows it’s funny and tries to make us laugh is also great now he’s older and can understand that falling over isn’t a disaster it’s funny. He does also stop me taking myself too seriously which is no bad thing :o)

  9. says

    My son at the age of 3 was in a production at a local theatre with his dance group, and was dressed as a bumble bee. As a proud mum I invited lots of family and friends, my boy came on stage and was bossed around by partner which the audience found amusing. However my son did not and did not attend the dance group again. At the age of 8 he still finds it hard when people laugh at him, I am constantly trying to appease him by staying they are laughing with you and not at you.

  10. says

    This is so very true. We all need to learn to laugh at ourselves. It’s what keeps us sane! One of my daughters often gets in a huff when she’s playing and the game doesn’t go her way. Trouble is the face she pulls makes us all laugh because she looks so funny. She sees us laughing and a smile soon breaks onto her face!

  11. says

    Hilarious post Molly – partly because our toddler says Not Funny as well. It’s so true though, we really don’t want to be taking ourselves too seriously! Glad you were wearing pants, some pant is better than none! My dress got sucked up in an escalator the other day. Mortifying but laughed like a hyena afterwards :)

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