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On making ‘dad jokes’ at Easter dinner

family dinner, dad, teens


Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 04/09/23

There's actually research on this, and it shows three good reasons we Dads are going to keep it up.

We’ve all heard them. The puns, the stale old pop-culture references, the corny one-liners that no one laughs at. I’m talking, of course, about dad jokes. My own father has a stockpile of them that he deployed, just like his father before him, and his father before that. Now that I’m a father, I too, delight in making them.

It isn’t that I think I’m funny. I’m really not. The reward of the dad joke is more in the reaction it elicits. I revel in the groans of the children. Their exasperation only makes me stronger. If I can fire off a joke that actually makes my teen daughters embarrassed, well, that’s that the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. You’ll never get the grin off my face.

People all over the world are begging for dads to just stop and give it a rest already. But it will never stop. Dads don’t give up. We aren’t quitters. We will always keep making terrible jokes. We will continue talking to them about their too-short shorts and how inappropriate they look. We will continue to deploy goofy slang words we overhear our kids using to reflect back to them the oddity of youth culture. We will always and everywhere make our teen daughters play silly family games with us even if all they really want to do is sit alone in their rooms.

I feel like I’ve earned the right to act this way. If I have to get up every day at 6 am in the dark and cold and commute to work, if I have to pay bills and mow the lawn, then I’m allowed to say something cringe during dinner and then laugh at the awkward reaction. Being pro-dad joke is why I was excited to recently read a news story in which psychologists explained that these jokes are actually good for the kids, too.

First, Dad jokes are age appropriate. They introduce children to the concept of humor in a safe way, and even though most people consider the jokes unfunny, many puns truly are miracles of language. If nothing else, wordplay is a pleasant pastime. Even if they don’t elicit laughter, groaning at puns is a socially acceptable form of catharsis. It feels good to shake your head at dad jokes. I suspect that my teens secretly love the opportunity to groan and complain about how their father is so very uncool.

Second, dad jokes can cause mild awkwardness, particularly when dad embarrasses his teens in front of their friends. This sounds bad, but in fact, creating a low-stakes, socially awkward situation for children is a way to help them to deal with and overcome awkwardness. This social skill is a great tool to acquire as the kids grow into adulthood. The article I read explains it this way; “By continually telling their children jokes that are so bad that they’re embarrassing, fathers may push their children’s limits… They show their children that embarrassment isn’t fatal.”

Third, when Dad smilingly exults in his stale jokes even though everyone else in the room is groaning, he’s showing his children how self-confidence works. Dads are famous for this – wearing outdated clothing, making bad jokes, not understanding pop culture, listening to old music – and not caring at all what anybody else thinks about it. It’s a great example for children to see how their father can make an embarrassing joke and then, instead of worrying about the reaction, revel in the embarrassment. Dad doesn’t change his personality in order to fit in — he just wants to be himself and have a great time.

So, Dads, this Easter you have a golden opportunity. Get your jokes ready. Be sure they’re groan-worthy. Recklessly deploy them at Easter dinner. At some point your children will thank you for it.

FamilyFatherhoodMental Health
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