By Janice Lane Palko
As you know, in my spare time, I write novels. Recently, I was selling my books at a local show when I noticed several dads sporting T-shirts. One said, I keep all my dad jokes in a dad-a-base. And the other had googly eyes on the shirt and read, Dad jokes are how I roll.
Though dad jokes, corny, clean usually short one-liners or puns usually make us groan, researchers say they are an important part of a building a relationship with one’s child. One of my husband’s favorite dad jokes is when we passed by the jail in downtown Pittsburgh, he always, told my kids, “That place is easy to get into and hard to get out of.” He even told that to my nephew when he was young and riding in our car, and twenty-five years later, he still remembers that.
Researchers opine that the dad jokes help to establish a bond between father and child, and when that child grows into a teen and is trying to establish their own identity, a repetitive dad joke affords a way for a teen to recall their past and yet provide an appropriate way for the teen to show disdain for their parent without being down-right disrespectful.
They also help children cope with uncomfortable emotions. Marc Hye-Knudsen, who wrote the academic paper, Dad Jokes and the Deep Roots of Fatherly Teasing, states that: Dad jokes can thus be 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 are embarrassing, fathers may push their children’s limits for how much embarrassment they can handle. Dad jokes impart the important lesson that embarrassment is not lethal.
It is believed that the dad joke has evolved from the more physical type of play that fathers typically engage in with their children. Even in the animal world, the males are generally more physical with their offspring than the females. Growing up, my dad loved to get on the floor and wrestle with us four kids, and today, one of my granddaughters’ favorite games to play is something they call “Groundhog.” This entails them hiding under blankets and then jumping out at my son-in-law and pummeling him. The girls have even asked their uncles to play “Groundhog” with them.
According to Hye-Knudsen “fathers’ rougher style of joking fulfills a similar function: 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.”
So, while we may roll our eyes at dad jokes, they actually are a punderful part of the family dynamic.