Review: Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying by Betsy Kerekes


The messy-dirty-diaper-on-the-floor-years and the wonders and miracles of chaos are hilariously present in Betsy Kerekes’ Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying ( And, at the heart of this parenting book is the following lesson: “There are probably many more parent saints than we know of. They just never had time to write anything down for the sainthood committee” (92). In other words, imperfection is more than okay. It’s the intention behind our actions, the striving towards peace and happiness that count, knowing that we fail along the way.

Throughout the book, Kerekes uses the art of exaggeration to tell humorous stories: “Lord knows you’ve already received advice . . . from everyone and the cousin’s half-sister’s babysitter’s free-range chicken inspector” (10) and sometimes, the floor “looks like the streets in New Orleans after Mardi Gras” (16). These exaggerations, of course, are interspersed with practical and comforting advice. For instance, in a world where parents are constantly competing, Kerekes says to “do what works for you” (10) and to not compare your child to others, which as I reflect on my child’s younger years, would have been a really good reminder. In those days, comparing children often led to disappointment and not seeing the unique gifts that my own child had instead. Also, in this book, there are plenty of stories of children misbehaving during mass that will have you rolling the aisles (pun intended).

Other great ideas abound:

–creating game nights to “trick” children into cleaning the house.

–sharing pictures of mishaps and messes on social media for sympathy and laughter. (To use one of Kerekes’ techniques that also pops up in her book (the “pro tip”), here is a Pro Tip: Follow Kerekes’ blog: Fun and hilarity ensue.)

–encouraging service and charitable acts with children. (I have fond memories of regularly visiting a nursing home with my mom. We would take some of the residents out for McDonald’s and share a meal. We just had to make sure we didn’t lose any of the residents along the way.)

–uplifting children’s feelings, rather than dismissing them.

–making paper airplanes with lists of chores and flying them into children’s/spouse’s rooms. (Oh, the fun I could have with that!)

–imparting a sense of “detachment,” so that things and objects don’t take too much importance.

–starting the day by asking, “What does God want me to do today?” This would work for any age, but when I do it, I believe God always answers, “Nothing. Take the day off,” which can’t be right, but maybe it is. (I hope it is!)

–ignoring temper tantrums: “When you act oblivious to screaming children, it deflates that misbehaving balloon and teaches them that temper tantrums get them nowhere” (46). (This may be a tactic that is also starting to work with a certain ex-president, thanks to Twitter.)

So, for me, this book reconfirmed my faith in mistakes, fun, and chaos. Laughter is something that can unite us all, and Kerekes’ book is full of hilarious opportunities. 

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