Children look to parents and follow their lead in actions, words and attitude. How you react, particularly to the unexpected, teaches your child many things. From you, they learn patience, perseverance, flexibility, accountability, integrity, creativity, discipline, humility, kindness, compassion and much more.
Laughter is an invaluable attribute that helps many deal with unexpected situations calmly and wisely. As a parent, are you able to step back from a potentially explosive situation and have a light-hearted response? Do you always demand your right as a parent to have a perfectly behaved child? Or are you showing your child how laughter relieves the tension at some seemingly difficult times? Have your children already learned to dread facing you when something goes wrong? Or can you and your children find humor in a plan that goes completely awry?
One mother tells of returning home, having left her three children (ages 2-7) in the care of their father for the afternoon. While the father napped on the couch, the children discovered how to dampen blue toilet tissue on the humidifier and toss it toward the ceiling fan, where it was whisked across the bedroom, attaching itself to the wall, curtains, pictures and other items in the room. The father awoke, only after considerable havoc, to find a thoroughly “decorated” bedroom! Aghast and concerned as to what the mother would do, he was pondering the dilemma when she returned home. Pause now and consider what your reaction would have been. This mother surprised both the father and her children. After surveying the disaster for a moment, she broke into peals of laughter! “What more could I have done?” she said. Of course, the cleanup began. The children were told their behavior was not acceptable. However, a long-lasting image was planted of a mother who could discern between a true crisis and an opportunity for healthy laughter.
Laughter proves to be an effective remedy for stress and tension. Medical studies point to the significant difference laughter makes in a sick person’s recovery. Consider what value laughter might have in your daily routine. The daily stress of family and work responsibilities, deadlines, carpools and meal preparations make an unexpected situation fraught with tension. What is your response when little hands accidentally spill a plate of peas, scattering them like green marbles across the kitchen floor? What do you say when large hands in a hurry spill orange juice across the counter? Can you see the opportunity for humor in the situation? Are you able to make a fun game of retrieving peas or helping gather towels to catch the spill? Or do you feel compelled only to lecture, scold and punish?
Your child not only responds to your reaction but learns how to behave in frustrating dilemmas. While there must be consistency and good order in a parent’s reaction, a frequent lighthearted response helps your child realize being an adult is not all seriousness and severity. Are you putting a little laughter into your child’s memories of family life?
See the Light Side
This does not mean facing serious issues of life with frivolity. It would be irresponsible parenting to approach serious daily routines, outright rebellion by a child or true crises in such a manner. Everyone must deal with family matters realistically and responsibly. Yet, table manners, disasters in the kitchen, toilet training, adolescent misadventures, school grades, broken windows and spilled milk can all be approached by the discerning parent with a measure of levity, making even serious situations less stressful. Not all of life must be faced with a grim countenance. Often even the hardest moments can be managed successfully, because someone is willing to smile and see the lighter side of the issue. It is never too late to ask God to incorporate laughter into your child’s discipline and training.
Model a Joyful Heart
Your child observes and most likely mimics your reaction to the unexpected. When thunderclouds burst open on the outdoor graduation party, your response of either frustrated anger or of light-hearted acceptance will affect your child’s reaction. Frantic admonitions against wet feet tracking on the carpet, fading crepe paper stains on clothing or cake crumbs on the floor can make the party an unhappy occasion. Instead, you are teaching your child how to face the disappointments of life with a laugh, even while leading the children to dry towels, put down a plastic floor-covering for catching crumbs, and, with a smile, keeping the atmosphere light and fun. In the years to come, other events may be “ruined” by uncontrollable circumstances. Allowing a joyful heart to shine through in these disappointing circumstances provides a model for your child’s future behavior.
Laugh With Your Child
When was the last time you laughed with your child? How often do you and your child do silly things just so you can laugh together? How many instances in the past did you treat with severity and realize now you could have used humor instead?
No one is the perfect parent. However, laughter truly is an important attribute for parents seeking to train a child to love, honor and obey the Lord. Ask God to give you the discernment and willingness to include a healthy measure of laughter and light-heartedness in your home.