So Bad They’re Good: Embarrassing “Dad Jokes” May Help Children’s Development, Study Says

Cheerful teenage boy walking in nature with his dad
mixetto/ iStock

We’ve likely all heard a “dad joke” or two, or perhaps a thousand. They’re generally endearing, albeit corny, jokes that involve puns, obvious one-liners, and so-bad-they’re-good punchlines. They make us chuckle, roll our eyes, or lovingly groan — and new research reveals that they might also be doing some surprisingly serious good: helping children develop into healthy adults.

According to an article recently published by the British Psychological Society, dad jokes have a positive effect on children’s physical and cognitive development. 

Wrote Marc Hye-Knudsen, the author of the article and a humor researcher: “When considered properly, dad jokes are an intricately multi-layered and fascinating phenomenon that reveals a lot not just about how humor and joke-telling work but also about fathers’ psychology and their relationships with their children.”

Knudsen suggested that the moments of awkwardness that generally accompany dad jokes hold the “immensely valuable lesson” for adolescent children that awkwardness is not only survivable, but it’s also a part of being human. He explained that by telling embarrassing jokes, fathers are essentially demonstrating that “embarrassment isn’t fatal” — though many a teenager might tell you otherwise. 

“Dad jokes may have a positive pedagogical effect, toughening up the kids who are begrudgingly exposed to them,” he added

Igor Alecsander/ iStock

Beyond teaching a lesson in overcoming a little embarrassment, Knudsen said dad jokes also model the importance of authenticity even in the presence of “external social pressure.” In this sense, dad jokes can be a tangible example of the value of using one’s voice and emerging with confidence even if the reaction is less than a round of applause. 

Does that make dad jokes enlightening? According to Knudsen, maybe so! 

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Dad jokes are also undeniably popular. The hashtag #dadjokes on Instagram has more than 1.5 million posts and there are countless listicles with 100-plus dad jokes published online. Though the concept of silly jokes has likely existed in some form since the beginning of time, a 2019 article entitled “The Dubious Art of the Dad Joke” noted that the term “dad joke” really started to take off in 2014, even entering dictionaries around that time.   

So, Knudsen’s primary advice? Keep telling those dad jokes. “Through painful repetition, you get to experience the same old joke go through waves of being unfunny and then so unfunny that it becomes funny,” his article reads. “One day, you may overhear your children spontaneously telling the same joke, perhaps when they themselves have become parents. This, if nothing else, is concrete evidence that our input as parents does have an impact.”

Whether you’re feeling vindicated, inspired, or a little bit of both, here’s a list of dad jokes to work into your rotation, so you can keep supporting kiddos — one wholesome pun at a time. 

1. See that farmer? A man outstanding in his field.
Source: NPR 

2. What does “idk” stand for? Everyone I ask says, “I don’t know.”
Source: Reader’s Digest

3. Did you get a hair cut? No, I got them all cut! 
Source: NPR

4. What does the buffalo tell his son in the morning? Bye, son!
Source: NPR

5. I’m so good at sleeping that I can do it with my eyes closed!
Source: Good Housekeeping

6. I have a joke about cows, but I don’t want to milk it.
Source: Good Housekeeping

7. I asked my friend when their birthday was. He said March 1st. I stood up, walked around the room, and asked again. 
Source: @dadsaysjokes 

8. We’re renovating the house, and the first floor is going great, but the second floor is another story.
Source: Good Housekeeping

9. My daughter asked me to stop singing ‘Wonderwall.’ I said maybe.
Source: Good Housekeeping

10. The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.
Source: Reader’s Digest

11. Do you wanna box for your leftovers? ““No, but I’ll wrestle you for them.” 
Source: Country Living

12. I’ve got a great joke about construction, but I’m still working on it.
Source: Country Living

13. What do clouds wear? Thunderwear.
Source: Country Living 

14. When does a joke become a “dad joke?” When it becomes apparent.
Source: Parade 

15. Kid: “I’m going to go change!” (in reference to putting on a new pair of clothes) Dad: “Aww, don’t ever change!” 
Source: My dad