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I have an infant daughter who cries a lot (naturally; she's three months old) and most of the time I find it more funny than anything else. I feel pretty awful about this but I think it's just due to the fact that I know there's nothing serious wrong (she's just hungry or cranky and impatient). If it is serious then I do get worried and it's not funny. And I naturally do tend to her cries.

However, as she gets older I am concerned that laughing when she cries is going to be a bad reaction to have. No one likes being laughed at and I don't want her to feel like I don't care about her. I also feel awful about finding it funny in the first place, but can't help it.

Is it bad that I find it funny? How do I deal with the urge to laugh so I don't hurt her feelings when she's older?

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However, as she gets older I am concerned that laughing when she cries is going to be a bad reaction to have. No one likes being laughed at and I don't want her to feel like I don't care about her. I also feel awful about finding it funny in the first place, but can't help it.

I agree with the other answer that right now, she very likely cannot identify your laughter as hurtful behavior, but I think you're correct to be concerned.

Not all children are created equally, and not all people, be they toddlers or adults, will have the same response to being laughed at. There are "highly sensitive children", there are loud and confident extroverts, and everything in between. What kind of child you have depends on the temperament they were born with (though the difference between temperament and personality - and other factors - continues to be debated in the literature.)

One thing is pretty clear, though, and that attachment - the safety, security, and trust a child feels in their relationship with their parent - is dependent on the quality of their interactions early on.

I read that

laughter occurs after conditions of heightened tension or arousal when at the same time there is a judgment that the situation is safe or inconsequential.

So, your laughter is in keeping with this. However, in the foreseeable future, your baby/toddler may not perceive the same lack threat or significance, and laughing when the baby cries will affect attachment.

An example of this was given in a recent question:

My kid wanted to play, but as there were many unknown faces he roamed around holding my finger... He danced to his favorite songs and played, but all the while with me or his mother nearby. Suddenly he mistook my friend for me, and holding his finger started to dance and play. ...Soon he saw me in front and realized that he was holding someone else's hand. Everyone burst into laughter (including me), but he started crying.

The problem here is that the toddler perceived he was suddenly unsafe, while the parent knew otherwise. The parent laughed, the toddler cried.

Is it bad that I find it funny?

No, it's understandable.

How do I deal with the urge to laugh so I don't hurt her feelings when she's older?

Babies are not born "blank slates". Read about temperament, observe your baby/toddler, and learn what kind of baby you have. That will help you decide on what responses are best.

When your baby/toddler is crying, immediately try to put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself what's funny about being hungry, fearful, tired, uncomfortable, etc. If there truly isn't anything funny about the situation, a stronger sense of empathy (which may well develop on its own with time, especially if this is your first child) should help you to respond appropriately, i.e. sympathetically.

N.B. For any who think this answer is teaching the child that crying about everything is encouraged by this approach, it's not. This is an approach to babies and young children that builds trust.

One of my children was extremely sensitive to being laughed at, even when they had done something incredibly cute and funny (in fact, the finger holding amid strangers thing referred to above happened to my toddler as well.) No amount of explaining that we weren't laughing at them made any difference. It turned out that we had a fairly sensitive toddler on our hands, someone who experienced the world very differently from us, and learning this helped us to adjust our responses accordingly.

Temperament and Its Role in Developmental Psychopathology
Autonomy in Adolescent Development, Towards Conceptual Clarity Edited by Bart Soenens, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Stijn Van Petegem © 2018 – Psychology Press
Laughter in young children.

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I usually deal with it by laughing, myself.

Your daughter knows you care about her, and isn't going to think you're mocking her pain. She doesn't know the concept of mocking yet, for that matter. What she will learn, though, is that you aren't worried about (whatever was bothering her), and so that it's not a big deal.

Even as children get older, this doesn't totally go away; sometimes my boys (elementary aged) will do things that are funny and painful at the same time. So long as they're not truly injured, I'll laugh, and it helps them recover. Of course, I have to be careful that they're not going to take it wrong, like if they're frustrated because something isn't working well, but for the most part it's not an issue, and when it is I apologize quickly, or more accurately I explain that it was funny but I'm also worried about them. I also try to let them in on the fun; being able to make fun of yourself is an important skill, after all.

(ha-ha) Oh, that looks like it hurt, you okay dear?

or

(ha-ha) You're going for nothing but air-ball on that free throw, right?

It doesn't always work, and part of that is reading the child; but it's easy enough to apologize if you read them wrong.

Laughter is just a response to a stimuli, and isn't one you should be ashamed of. Embrace it; these moments go away far too quickly.

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From personal experience, I have dealt with this and am currently dealing with my son, almost two, crying and then me feeling the urge to laugh. The way he cries is very "extra" to me, like my husband will say "hands are not for scratching" or "teeth are not for biting" and then my son will burst out into an exaggerated cry after making a pouting face.

Picture a cartoon of a baby crying and some might see the exaggerated emotional response as comical, but this is just how emotion is expressed without effort to stifle or prevent full expression of it. We know that babies express their emotions fully.

Around three, self-conscious emotions develop, but some developmental psychologists are noticing that self-conscious emotions, namely embarrassment and not shame, may begin as early as 18 months. I see that as a reminder that our kids are more aware than we think they are and we should affirm that we are a secure base for them in their times of stress at all ages. Source: https://www.romper.com/p/do-toddlers-get-embarrassed-they-only-seem-shameless-experts-say-19251319

If you think that it is an undesirable response from you and more on the impulsive side, you can change it! Our own behaviour can be changed; it takes self control, and effective change starts with our own emotional regulation and change of attitude.

Perhaps practice affirmations, like tell yourself daily "Children have valid perspectives. Those perspectives are worthy of our reflection, because the children themselves are worthy. Children are whole people. They deserve to be treated with dignity." Source: https://www.thekindofparentyouare.com/articles/stop-laughing

Here I am going a little deeper, but I also like to remember that parents are ambassadors, not owners of their kids. It takes humbling.

A blogger summarized questions from the book well:

"Questions we could ask ourselves.

  1. Identity – where do we get our identity from.
  2. Work – working to turn your children into something? or helping them develop into something more?
  3. Success – which is more important, the end product or what you are doing?
  4. Reputation – Living with the craziness that children can bring… does it affect who you are or does it reflect your children?"

(Source: https://anetintime.ca/book-series-parenting-be-ambassador/, Parenting by Paul Tripp)

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