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
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.