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  Children's Ministry Today    

Today's Featured Article

The Importance of Humor
                  Tim Hansel


The word humor comes from a root which means "moisture," and moisture is what makes things grow. I think that says something about the importance of humor in our families--humor moistens our relationships.

I once asked a friend of mine, "What are the five most important ingredients in a quality human being?" My friend is a very bright woman. She sat there pensively for a while and then said, "Humor, love, respect, responsibility... and humor."

So I said, "Norma, you already said that. "

And Norma replied, "Oh, humor is so vital that it's at least two out of five. Perhaps three out of five."

Humor is one of the most powerful influences in a family. It can be used very effectively in discipline. We're called to discipline our kids, not punish them. The word discipline actually means "to learn." It doesn't mean to put chains on our kids.

One day I asked a friend how hard it was to discipline his kids. He said, "Well, one day my kid really goofed up. He was being stubborn and disobedient. So I just grabbed him and said, 'I'm going to tickle you until you wet your pants unless you promise never to do that again.' And he looked up at me and said, What?' So I started tickling him and tickling him, and he was laughing and laughing. And I got him to promise never to repeat what he had just done."

My friend used humor and tickling to bring about behavior change. Of course, he did it lightheartedly; we have to be careful not to abuse our kids under the guise of kidding them. I've started using humor for discipline too, and it works well with my sons.

I once sailed 25,000 miles in a forty-foot sailboat with four other guys. We spent a year together. We were in such close quarters that it was an obvious opportunity for all sorts of cantankerous feelings to emerge. One of the guys, though, had a real gift at dissolving problems with humor. He would exaggerate things and make them into caricatures; he'd turn inevitable conflicts and arguments into funny situations. Before we knew it we'd be laughing, the tears rolling out of our eyes. Pretty soon we'd forget what our problem had been.

Laughter is a powerful medicine for a family. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Humor, laughter, and joy release endorphins--chemicals that create positive emotions--into the bloodstream. Humor is a miracle substance for families. It's easy to overreact when our kids make mistakes, but if we learn not to take ourselves too seriously, they will find it easier to correct their errors.

The other night we ran into a problem with Josh. We've been trying to teach our kids table manners, because they're at the age where it's important that they learn etiquette. We don't want them to embarrass themselves or us when we go out to eat. It's even become a touchy situation, and it was in danger of getting somewhat out of proportion.

So the other night when we were at a restaurant, Josh wasn't using his utensils correctly. Pam said to him lightly, "Why don't you just pick it up with your hands?" That was such an obvious exaggeration that Josh started to laugh. But Pam's remark set him free to think: what are good manners in this situation? Soon, by his own choice rather than our coercion, he went back to appropriate behavior. Using humor as discipline is smoother than coming down heavy on your kids. It preserves their dignity and gives them choice.

We need to learn how to have a sense of humor. Like anything else, developing a sense of humor takes practice. You develop your own style. Some people have a dry sense of humor; some are more inclined to slapstick. Some use satire; others use exaggeration or caricature. There are as many styles of humor as there are people.

Laughter is so important that I've made it a high priority. John Powell once said, "He who learns to laugh at himself shall never cease to be entertained." We need to learn to laugh at ourselves, because the human predicament is so notoriously difficult. Life can be so preposterously hard that if we didn't learn to laugh at ourselves, we wouldn't survive. Families today are going through more stress than ever before, but a well-developed sense of humor can keep them from breaking.

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