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The Laugh Factor

The Family That Laughs Together: Raising Funny Kids

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“A sense of humor…is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.” - Hugh Sidey

Our families -- don’t we love them? They make life fun and make us feel more secure. They are our biggest fans and critics.

Dealing with family is different from dealing with friends. Sometimes, we let our friends get away with things. Getting along with our friends is easy most days. If they irritate us, we can always just leave. However, we cannot do that with our families for they will be always with us all the time.

Even the most loving family may get on each other’s nerves, because they spend more hours together than with friends. Humor can help strengthen the family. If used improperly, it can also tear a family apart.

Even in the happiest of families, you will find occasional bursts of temper, aggressive feelings, and tension. Humor, when used properly, can help dispel problems. It helps if parties sit down and discuss things calmly and rationally. Humor serves as a safety valve when tempers flare.

We need to feel good about ourselves. The family can provide the atmosphere where we can relax and be ourselves. The family should be more accepting than the outside world. At the end of the day, it is such a relief to come home and relax. We all wear a mask when we are out in the world. Society expects us to behave in a certain way, say certain things, and respond the expected way.

At home, we can be in our normal selves because we are with people who love and accept us just the way we are, warts and all. Since the home is a soft place to fall, it is important to treat each other’s feelings carefully. Humor can serve as a cushion so as not to affect the self-esteem of other family members.

If you want to survive parenthood, you must have a terrific sense of humor! You will need it when you see your teenage son drinking directly from the milk container or when your three-year old practices his artistic skills on the newly painted dining room walls.

Yelling at a teenager does no good whatsoever. They will just stare and wonder why you are so frustrated. Getting angry at a three-year old will not erase that masterpiece in your wall. A little chat about the proper medium to use for painting might be in order.

Do not forget to take a photograph of the “masterpiece” on the wall before you clean or repaint it. Who knows, it might be worth a fortune someday, when he is already a rich and famous artist.

Children may be one of the funniest things in your entire life. When they grow up, their antics will become the basis for the funny family stories. You will laugh together and relate those stories to their children. Laughter in the family is as important as any other show of affection. Hugging, kissing, and laughing are what your children will remember best.

While teaching your children their ABCs, numbers, spelling, reading, and writing, it is just as important to teach them how to be funny and develop their own sense of humor. When it comes to coping up with problems in life as a parent, humor becomes a lifeline. You must teach your children how to find the funny side of life.

In the movie “Regarding Henry,” Henry’s daughter, while sitting at the breakfast table, accidentally spills her glass of juice. She looks at her father terrified of his reaction. She is expecting that her father will yell at her for this deed. Instead, he says, “That is okay, I do it all the time, see?” With that, he tips over his own glass spilling orange juice all over the table. There is a moment of silence and then everyone laughs. The little girl relaxes; knowing it is okay.

Indeed, you can use sense of humor to offset moments like this in a family. Stuff happens; you might as well laugh about it. Your children see you as an authority figure, but it is also important that they see you as human too, with the quirks and foibles that all humans possess.

It is important to teach a child that coping up with humor is better than just reacting with anger just when things do not go as planned. This is an important lesson in life, a lesson that you would want them to take with them into adulthood. They will eventually teach this to their own children. A sense of humor is a great family legacy. Start now.

You must set an example on how to see the funny side of life. Here is an example. A young husband, who is also a father of two little children, came home one night after a hard day in his office. Everything went wrong!

Traffic on the way home was horrible and it took twice as long to get there. To top matters off, he ran over one of the kids’ tricycles in the driveway. He was fuming as he opened the front door and began yelling, “I’ve told you boys a hundred times not to leave your tricycles in the driveway!”

His wife stepped in front of him, looked over his shoulder, past the open door, and asked sweetly, “Did you, by any chance, see my husband as you came in? He’s such a sweet guy, and I’m expecting him any minute.” He stopped dead still and stared at her for a second, then saw the humor of the situation and began laughing, at which point the whole family joined him in the laughter.

It is essential that you strike a balance in your work and home. Let us say your day has worsened, but you managed to deal with your co-workers and boss with wit and light-heartedness. However, on your way home, do you beat yourself up over some mistake you made? How do you react when your spouse asks, “How was your day?” Do you actually tell her every little detail of the whole day? Do you mix a cocktail drink and proceed to fill her in detail by detail?

Perhaps, it is time to bring in that sense of humor. If it helped you sail through your workday, it can help you go through the night. Lighten up. Flip that bad moment at work and transform it into a funny incident. Find a funny side and spin a tale for your loved ones. It sure beats blaming your family. After all, it is not their fault that you had an imperfect day.

It is never too early to start teaching your children to develop their own sense of humor. Studies show that babies learn to laugh as early as four months old and toddlers laugh as many as four hundred times a day.

Adults are lucky if they laugh fifteen times in a day. Unfortunately, as children grow up they hear things like, “What are you laughing at?” or “Wipe that smile off your face right this minute!” Adults say the most confusing things to children, “For Heaven’s sake, act your age!” That is exactly what they are trying to do, but we nip it in the bud!

Babies, of course, do not really understand what humor is all about, but they do recognize that it is a good thing when they see you smiling and laughing. They will even try to imitate you. They respond when you tickle them or blow raspberries on their tummies. Kids love it!

Studies have shown that babies, even those as young as one week old, smile in their sleep. Most parents dismiss this as simply gas. In reality, it is a spontaneous activity in the central nervous system. As children grow older, they smile more often while they are awake.

Even as young as nine to fifteen months, children recognize unexpected things, such as putting something silly on your head or making silly noises, as funny. They love games like peek-a-boo and will laugh repeatedly when you play games with them.

From ages one through age five, children enjoy funny cartoons, especially slapstick, pratfalls, silly made up words and nursery rhymes, and those with characters that giggle. Bodily noises cause positive reaction at this age. Also considered funny at this stage are pictures and sounds.

Animals making unrelated noises elicit laughter. Children at this age also try to make their parents laugh by doing something unexpected. They stomp around the house in big shoes or fall down and roll on the floor. They watch you carefully after an antic to discover what makes you laugh. Then, they will repeat it as often as you continue to laugh at it.

Children ages six through nine are pranksters, so watch out for practical jokes! They also make up silly answers to questions like, “I’m sure glad I’m not a bird.” When asked why, you could hear answers like, “Because I don’t know how to fly, silly!” They love telling simple jokes at this age and will repeat them repeatedly, especially if you keep laughing at them.

Riddles are a favorite for the nine to twelve-year-old children. They love the application of abstract thinking to riddles and jokes, such as knock-knock and elephant jokes. They take great delight in telling these to anybody and everybody who will stand still a moment and listen.

When it comes to teenagers, those who are twelve to fourteen years old, get ready for word play and puns. Examples of such include, “Gee, Mom, you do know that headache is all in your mind!” Believe me, it gets worse before it gets better, but they are learning and that is more important.

From ages fifteen and up, you will hear more humor that is satirical and anecdotal. This is because they are developing logic and the ability to make judgments while learning the ins and outs of the language. This age is harder to take, as they tend to make their parents and siblings the butt of their jokes. You must be patient as they are learning how to use humor in order to handle tricky situations.

There are many reasons why you should encourage your child’s sense of humor. There is an intellectual benefit as your child learns new words and meanings. Discovering many words with more than one meaning is exciting to children. It gives them so much more to work with in their word play fun.

Give your child a boost in their reading skills by introducing joke books and riddles. He/she may read that same book repeatedly, taking delight in telling those jokes and riddles to their friends and family.

Humor can stimulate creative thinking, since children spend time learning new words, meanings, riddles, and word games. They will even take this skill with them into the work world as adults.

Humor can even help your child enhance their social skills. Research shows that children who use humor in their lives are more likely to be active participants in school activities. Their peers and their teachers perceive them as more sociable. Humor is a useful skill that can help them in their adult lives and relationships. A child with good communication skills will go far in life.

Educators agree that a child with a well-developed sense of humor possesses a more acceptable means of expressing emotions, including anger. A child who learns how to manage his or her own emotions will have a happy adult life. Therefore, you should impart to your children two important skills:

  • the ability to laugh and see the humor in any situation

  • the ability to use humor to cope up with the stress in life

So, how do you help your children develop their sense of humor? Start while they are babies by playing with them more often. As they grow older, buy amusing books to read, such as those by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. Laugh with them while watching funny sitcoms on television and take them to funny and age-appropriate movies. Praise them when they are humorous and encourage them in their attempts at humor. Listening to their laughter is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Discourage the use of inappropriate humor. Avoid put-downs, racist jokes, or sexist humor. Explain to your children how others will feel if these kinds of humor are directed at them. Be a good example to children. Teach them that any jokes, made at someone else’s expense, are definitely not funny and are very hurtful.

Humor is a great way of communicating with your children. This is one effective way to teach them valuable lessons and help them learn to cope with life. Teach your children to use humor to reduce stress and communicate with others peaceably. Humor can be used so they will avoid being crushed down by life’s events. They can use it to make them happy and feel good.

Teach them to use humor to make others feel good. Children, who use humor to deal with life, will grow up well-adjusted, self-confident, and happy adults. Remember that your children are watching you carefully for clues on how to handle life, problems, and other people. Set a good example for your children.

While you are at it, let some of their humor stuff rub off on you. Be playful. Read the comics section of the newspaper and refuse to read the ‘dumb’ stuff. Eat Oreo cookies kid style: First, lick off the cream, and then dunk it in milk. Run through the sprinklers with your clothes on or visit a carnival more often.

Br’er Rabbit said, “Everybody’s got a laughin’ place. Trouble is most folks won’t take the time to look for it!” Encourage your children to find their own ‘laughin’ place and join them there often for some fun.

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those I love I can; all of them make me laugh.” - W.H. Auden

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