As I look at our grown family one thing that characterises our family life is laughter – we laugh a lot.
Though I like the idea of deep and meaning conversation around the dinner table, more often than not, we dissolve into laughter at the silliest of things. I love hearing my kids sharing funnies with each other, or laughing over a shared memory. We enjoy sharp wit and play on words (especially now that the children are older), we joke, we do silly things – laughter is just a part of us.
Laughter is a key ingredient for a healthy family life. It maintains perspective and lightens the load. It creates memories and builds relationships. Is laughter happening in your home?
When was the last time you had a good laugh with your kids? With your spouse?
Encourage humour in your home
There are many ways that we can encourage laughing in our home – and each family will do this differently – but here are a few ideas to think about:
- Enjoy life yourself – do you have down time where you can relax and enjoy?
- Share funny stories – either stories from your day, previous times of your life, or stories you have read
- Encourage the children to read aloud something they have found funny in their book – enjoy a moment together
- Have a joke book lying around – I know this can be painful but it is good medicine!
- Watch funny movies – not only is this a relaxing time together as a family you are building memories and your family will incorporate what they have seen/heard into your family life and the laughter will be relived.
Be people focused not task focused
When we are task orientated the job just has to be done – NOW! The task is the most important thing and everything else needs to wait. Alternatively, when we are people focused, we can still get the job done, but we are aware of relationship issues. We are aware of how the other person is feeling, of how they are coping, of what they have on their hearts. When we allow for human interaction, even when we are working, we will start to hear humour in our home. There will be laughter as someone thinks of something funny they read, or a joke they must share or something silly that just happened to them (like finding the dishcloth in the fridge!)
Let their humour grow
It has been a joy to us to see humour develop in our family. When the kids were babies and we blew raspberries on their big round tummies, their laughter was pure delight. When they were toddlers I never ceased to be amazed at the calming quality of the giggles at bath time. Somewhere between 4 and 6 they started telling jokes – they weren’t funny jokes but we laughed anyway because they were so funny thinking they were telling funny jokes! As their vocab increased and their ability to use words, not only did their jokes start to be funny they started to appreciate play on words for themselves. They began to understand what makes a good joke. One of the funniest things to a parent is for the kids to suddenly get the hidden layers of humour in kids movies!
Laugh at yourself
My children have never been comfortable with the TV show, “Funniest Home Videos” as they see people getting hurt and people laughing at this. I have appreciated their sensitivity in this area. But in the home – I do silly things – just yesterday I was crossing a very narrow board across the water channel, it wobbled, I nearly lost my balance and I shrieked as I scrambled to solid ground. My kids thought this was a scream – there was only about 3” of water in the channel but I carried on as if a crocodile was about to snap (or so they told me). This was family laughter. I laughed at myself and they laughed with me. This is such a big thing – to learn the difference between laughing at someone and laughing with them. I was laughing at what I did – they laughed with me.
Humour can cross the line
That old and tried line, “I was only joking” just isn’t an acceptable response when humour crosses that line. When does humour cross that line?
- When the laughter is directed at someone, not with them
- When a practical joke leads to injury – either physical or emotional
- When silliness distracts people from doing the right thing
- When there is an immoral component
As our children grow and enjoy humour more and more we must teach them to be appropriate and to be sensitive to other people at all times. Being on the receiving end of a joke can be hard for a child to learn as well. Many times they will feel that people are laughing at them. While people need to learn sensitivity in these situations the child can learn the joy of making people laugh. It is a contribution that we can all make to the people in our lives.
Humour is Relational
When we laugh something happens to our insides (endorphins is probably the scientific word!) – it changes our perspective which changes our attitude, which changes our actions. Laughing also builds and strengthens relationships because for that moment in time we are either building a memory or reliving a memory.
I hope you find something to laugh about with your kids today.
Family Humour and Character
Humour, like everything in our life, has a balance. There are some things that are funny – and there are some things that are not. As parents, we need to teach our children to be aware of that line. One of the ways that they will learn to walk that line is by being sensitive to others – by being aware of how those around them are feeling and then to adjust their actions accordingly.
To teach Sensitivity – or any value based response – I would teach my kids the name (in this case, sensitivity), I’d talk about what it means, and what it looks like in their life. We would often focus on that character trait for a month or so making an effort to be extra aware of opportunities that highlight that response and helping my children grow in understanding and practice.
One such situation where we taught sensitivity – was when the kids went through a stage (and they all did) of delighting in giving people frights. They would jump out from behind a corner, they would sneak up on you from behind, they would pop up from behind the furniture with this almighty noise – and if they were close enough to you they would jerk you as well doubling the effect of their giving you a fright. This isn’t always funny! So we would talk through issues of sensitivity and being aware of when such a joke would be appropriate or when to restrain.
Family life gives us so much opportunity to teach our kids in character.