The Gift is Humor

 “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.


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?

Example 1:

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.

Book on how to be a doctor

I quickly locate the page and read “If someone has been bitten by a black widow spider, do the following:

  1. Wrap the patient in a warm blanket

  2. Put a tourniquet above the bite

  3. Immerse the area in ice

  4. 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.

 Example 2:

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:

Shaking children in wet cementThe other day, I decided to fix the cracked sidewalk in front of my house. I removed the old sidewalk, made a form, mixed up the cement, poured the cement into the form and smoothed it out.

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?

Immune system wins over disease

Laughter may increase your immune system,
the system that helps the body fight disease.

Laughter is a natural pain killer

Laughing more than 200 times in one instance causes the body to release endorphins, a phenomenon similar to the “runners’ high” experienced by long-distance runners. Endorphins are the body’s own natural painkiller and anti-depressant.

Laughter provides internal aerobics

Dr. William Fry of Stanford University found that laughing 200 times was equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. He called it internal aerobics. If you hate to exercise like I do, just think: laughing 400 times is equal to 20 minutes on the rowing machine without expensive equipment or stiffness or injury, and you’ll have a heck of a good time!

Laughter fights Ulcers

Antacids look out!

laughter increases oxygen

Laughter also increases breathing, boosts heart rate and lowers blood pressure, all of which effectively increase oxygen to the heart, lungs and brain.

Psychological benefits

The ability to make others laugh gives a monumental boost to one’s self esteem.

Laughter creates emotional bonds

Relationships that include humor and laughter tend to last longer.  Couples, who let laughter be a hallmark of their relationship, have fewer divorces. In fact, any group, whether social or work-related, feels closer when the members laugh together.

Humor makes you feel in control

Carol Burnett once said “Comedy is tragedy – plus time.”  Stress makes us all feel out of control and helpless. Humor and laughter helps us regain that control.

Humor improves your thinking and creativity

How many times do you remember your teacher telling you to get more serious about your work and to stop fooling around? Humor and laughter actually loosen you up and improve thinking and creativity. Anecdotal evidence shows that humorous presentations are retained more than serious ones. Kids and teachers in school should be told to lighten up, laugh and have more fun, not less. Maybe then everyone would learn more!

Humor makes you feel grounded

During my own school career, I was grounded many times for using my humor. Who knew then that I was ahead of my time?


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 through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.

Noses are Red by Joel Schwartz

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