“Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.”
Edward De Bono
How would you like to give your children …
- a gift they can use for the rest of their lives?
- a gift that’s inexpensive? in fact it, doesn’t cost anything.
- a gift that will help them socially?
- a gift that will help them intellectually?
- a gift that will help them at school, at work, and in life?
- a gift that will enhance their physical and emotional health?
- a gift that will change their stressful situations into stressless ones?
- a gift that will bond your family together?
- and it is also a gift that you can use yourself?
The gift is a sense of humor.
What do I really mean when I talk about helping your child develop a sense of humor?
Is it helping him or her become a stand-up comedian or the life of the party? Not really.
Is it throwing a cream pie in someone’s face? Not really. Is it making jokes at some one else’s expense? Never!
So what is it?
Since a psychiatrist always answers a question with a question, I will pose this … What is the common theme in the two following examples?
It is the 4th of July. I’m four days out of medical school and in the emergency room that’s bursting at the seams with heart attacks, broken bones and cuts. The nurse runs over to me, terror in her eyes, and informs me that the patient in room 5 was bitten by a black widow spider. I’ve learned a lot of things in medical school, but this was not one of them. I rush to a stack of books on a nearby table and search the index of a first aide manual. Near the top of the index is what would save me and the patient: Black Widow Spider Bites page 17.
I quickly locate the page and read “If someone has been bitten by a black widow spider, do the following:
- Wrap the patient in a warm blanket
- Put a tourniquet above the bite
- Immerse the area in ice
- Rush the patient to the nearest hospital
So I sent the patient to another hospital. Not really.
But seriously, I started to laugh and soon so did the nurses. I was then able to go in and examine the patient and the black not-widow spider she brought to show me.
I am not very good with my hands (which coincidentally is why I didn’t become a surgeon). But very occasionally, I try to fix things around the house. I spent one morning re-cementing a cracked sidewalk only to come out and find some kids’ initials imprinted in the cement. I was furious.
Twenty-four hours later, this is how I recounted the story:
When I was finished, I went inside for a drink. Upon my return, I found two boys putting their initials in my work.
Overcome with anger, I grabbed both boys by the collar, and yelled at them at the top of my lungs.
I made them smooth out the cement, and warned them not to let me ever see them near my house again. As they ran away, my next-door neighbor came over to me shaking his head.
“I can’t believe what I just saw,” he said, “A noted child psychiatrist yelling and shaking young children like that.”
“Let me explain,” I began, “I deal appropriately with children in the abstract but not in the concrete.”
In both instances, a sense of humor and a light perspective helped me with these emotionally charged situations.
A sense of humor gives a light- hearted approach to the trials and tribulations of life. It is a way of living one’s life, of viewing the world and making the most out of one’s own potential.
What else can this perspective do for your children?
This perspective can help your children as you are raising them, you as an adult and your children when they are grown-up.
This perspective is ageless. It benefits everyone.
Joel Schwartz M.D. Emeritus Chair Psychiatry Abington Memorial Hospital Author of Noses are Red
For more information about using humor, check out the following book. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.
If you found this article helpful, click here to make a donation to The Center for Parenting Education. Your support will enable us to continue to provide quality information free of charge.