'I Remember That Dam Trip!' Why Dad Jokes Are So Good for Your Kids' Health

(Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Want some guaranteed laughs from the backseat next time you’re doing a road trip across the West? As you’re passing a field of hay, point suddenly and say loudly, “HEY!” Your startled children will just love that one, trust me.


Or if you see a deer in the trees, exclaim, “OH DEAR!”

I’m wiping away tears just thinking of it. They can’t get enough of that one. They haven’t actually told me that, but I’m pretty sure they think it on the INside. Their groans are like standing ovations, in my view.

AP/Reuters Feed Library
Look, dear!

Turns out though, that I’m not just doing it to tickle my own personal funnybone—I’m doing it for their health, you see. I’m that kind of guy.

Marc Hye-Knudsen, a researcher of humor and lab manager at Aarhus University’s Cognition and Behavior Laboratory, explains in an article he wrote for the British Psychological Society:

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.

In light of this, it is worth considering dad jokes as a pedagogical tool that may serve a beneficial function for the very children who roll their eyes at them.

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.


Yeah, yeah, whatever. But did I ever tell you about our family trip to the Hoover Dam? I was on fire. “Dam! That’s big,” I’d say. Then: “I’m hungry. Let’s go to the dam restaurant.”

Your kids will remember it for years. Later, you can pull out the photo album and say, “I remember that damn trip!”

I’m not just telling incredibly bad jokes. I’m involved in a complex, um… something or other that is “multi-layered”:

What, moreover, are we to make of the association of dad jokes with dads? Are fathers indeed more prone to telling dad jokes, and if so, why? It might seem tempting to simply dismiss dad jokes as bad jokes, at the same time accusing dads of just having a bad sense of humour, but that would be a mistake. When considered properly, dad jokes are an intricately multi-layered and fascinating phenomenon that reveals a lot not just about how humour and joke-telling work but also about fathers’ psychology and their relationships with their children. Dad jokes work on at least three levels: as puns, as anti-humour, and as a kind of weaponised anti-humour when dads use them to teasingly annoy and/or embarrass their children.


Look at the unfettered joy that terrible jokes bring to Milwaukee Bucks superstar and father of two (soon to be three) Giannis Antetokounmpo:

So to all the dads out there, I salute you. We are not just amusing ourselves with silly puns; we are improving the health and well-being of our kids.

Happy Father’s Day.



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