Parenting Tips from a Clown: based on my experiences entertaining kids for 20+ years
People often ask my kids what it’s like to have clowns for parents, and that question is like asking twins what it’s like to be a twin. I think they expect to hear that my home is like a funny circus all the time, and that we’re all about laughs and squirting flowers and throwing pies at each other.
The truth is that we’re completely plain and ordinary… with one exception. Being Professional Children’s Entertainers means that we’ve had less tolerance for poor behaviors in our own children after spending all day entertaining other peoples’ children. In fact, I was making parenting choices in my head for 10 years before I had a child of my own.
The reason I’m mentioning this is that last weekend, I had a parenting experience which validated everything I’ve ever believed about the influence my job has had on my parenting choices.
My son and I had two 3 hour gigs last week, which were back-to-back, with only an hour in between. We left at 8:30 that morning, and we didn’t return until 6:30 that night. It was a long day for both of us. I’m used to it, but this was his first really long work day. After about 5 minutes in the car he said, “Now I understand why you and Dad are so tired when you get home. That was a lot of work!”
Parenting Thoughts from my little Clown
I asked what else he had noticed, and this observation really caught my attention:
“Why don’t parents make their kids say thank you? Parents don’t owe their kids anything. Events like this are a treat, and kids should be thankful.”
In only six hours, I could see him formulating questions and opinions for the future.
Imagine the questions I was asking for 10 years!
For years, whenever we’d come home from events, my kids would always ask “What kind of kids did you have to deal with today?” and they would enjoy hearing about the behaviors that I had witnessed or dealt with myself.
So, to have my children “in the business” and experiencing what I’ve been talking about all these years is extremely satisfying, especially when they can articulate appreciation for the choices my husband and I made as a result.
For example… gratitude is really important in my house. I know that some parents don’t like to “make” their kids say thank you, because it wouldn’t be genuine if they are forced to say it. My theory has always been that gratitude is an intrinsic quality which is cultivated over time. Saying thank you is simply the outward habit in place, so that, by the time an individual finally feels grateful, there is already language in place to express it. (And it teaches them to be thankful for everything, which makes kids easier to be around. Think about it… you can’t be thankful and complain at the same time…)
After dealing with demanding, ungrateful kids, and then experiencing easygoing, thankful kids, I decided I wanted the latter, and I paid attention to parents who seemed to have “content” kids. The common denominator was gratitude.
I remember a father years ago who, when his son refused to say thank you for the balloon I had handed him, took it from him and handed it back to me and said, “He’s not feeling thankful right now, so he doesn’t get to keep it.” And they walked away. About an hour later, they were back in my line, and I overheard dad saying, “It’s too bad we have to spend all this time waiting again. How do you think it will go this time?” And his son replying, “I’ll be thankful”. No tantrum. No sulking. This dad had all the power and wasn’t letting a public event interfere with his parenting. When the boy made it to me, he was even sweeter than before. I handed him his new balloon, and he said, “Thank you. I like it”, without being prompted! I was so impressed, and I implemented that principle immediately. It was liberating!
As my little clowns grew, so did my Parenting Style.
As they got older, I kicked it up a notch.
We were getting “real” haircuts years ago, and it was a big deal, because I had butchered their hair trying to do it myself only 6 weeks earlier. At the end, we were presented with those tiny dum-dum suckers. I randomly grabbed three, and we left. I handed them out. One of my kids complained, “But I wanted root-beer flavor”. I said, “Is that your way of saying thank you?” He started to whine again. “Then there is no sucker today. Maybe tomorrow”. I took it back and put it in my purse. End of conversation. No lecture. Yes, he pouted, but that wasn’t my problem, so I ignored it. The next day, he came to me (quite sweetly, I might add), “May I have the sucker please?” I pulled it out of my purse with a smile, and I was rewarded with a genuine “Thank you”. (I call this “You-git-what-you-git-and-you-don’t-throw-a-fit 2.0”!)
This became a “go-to” tool in my house. Whenever one would complain instead of being grateful for what was there, I’d say, “Is that your way of saying thank you?”, a reminder to stop and be thankful… or go without!
I’ve always joked about writing a parenting book based on my experiences and the interactions I’ve observed as an entertainer all these years. The title is “From Behind the Red Nose…A Clown’s Perspective on Parenting”. :o)
I’m definitely opinionated, but there is no guarantee that any of my opinions are right, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see how my grandkids turn out, and then maybe I’ll write that book.
Until then, I blog!
And… I’d love to hear your best parenting tip or one-liner for your kids!
Thanks for reading!