Crack Them Up! Dad Jokes Are Good for Kids, Study Finds

The silly pranks and cringy jokes made popular by dads can actually be a good thing for kids.

By: Amanda Mushro
Germany, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne


Germany, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne

Photo by: Westend61


I don’t trust stairs. They are always up to something.
How long should socks be? Twelve inches, so you can fit in one foot.
I know a bunch of good jokes about umbrellas, but they usually go over people’s heads.

Ahhhh the Dad Joke. Always good for a little giggle or even an eye roll. Even if you thought it was just your dad who thinks he’s a hoot — it’s much more widespread. The term "dad joke" made it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2019 and is defined as "a wholesome joke of the type said to be told by fathers with a punchline that is often an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny."

Lame or not, according to an actual study, dads that are cracking these humorous (or humorless) jokes around their kids are actually helping to make their kids better adults. Really — we’re not joking.

Marc Hye-Knudsen, a researcher of humor and lab manager at Aarhus University’s Cognition and Behavior Laboratory in Denmark, explained how dad's silly jokes help support a child’s physical and cognitive development.

First, when dad tells a joke and doesn’t get a roar of laughter, it shows kids their father's willingness to embarrass himself again and again. After all, one part of the dad joke is that they occur over and over. Kids seeing their dad’s jokes fall flat and his willingness to try again is a good thing.

Next, it teaches kids to accept awkwardness when a situation doesn't go as planned and teaches kids how to respond to these situations.

"By continually telling their children jokes that are so bad that they’re embarrassing, fathers may push their children’s limits for how much embarrassment they can handle. They show their children that embarrassment isn’t fatal," Hye-Knudsen writes in the study findings.

For many dads, using humor and light teasing is how they play and interact with their kids. Hye-Knudsen says moms usually leave this style of parenting up to their dads and there are some cultural factors as to why. Moms tend to nurture and teach through play and dads use humor to connect with their kids.

One part of the study that cracked us up is who these jokes are really for — it’s not the kids. Even if dad tells the jokes to his kids, their kid’s reaction is secondary because the real audience of all these dad jokes are the dads themselves, because dads know their kids will cringe at their jokes, and they enjoy that reaction.

Hye-Knudsen says that dad jokes have three levels: puns, anti-humor, and weaponized anti-humor which teases, annoys, or embarrasses children.

"By teasingly striking at their children’s egos and emotions without teetering over into bullying, fathers build their children’s resilience and train them to withstand minor attacks and bouts of negative emotion without getting worked up or acting out, teaching them impulse control and emotional regulation," says Hye-Knudsen.

Hye-Knudsen says dads should continue cracking the joke — even if they are the only ones laughing.

"So to all the dads out there who love telling dad jokes to your kids: Don’t let their groans, their eye rolls, or their palpable irritation stop you. You’re partaking in a long and proud tradition, and your embarrassingly awful jokes may even do them some good," he said. "One day, you may overhear your children spontaneously telling the same joke, perhaps when they themselves have become parents."


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