The essential qualities for being a good parent are many. Being loving, kind, patient, gentle and self-controlled are just a few that immediately come to mind. Each one of these characteristics is very important and frequently discussed. However, there is another characteristic that is just as important but is rarely discussed or written about: the quality of possessing a good sense of humor.
To be a good mother or father you have to be able to laugh at yourself and at difficult situations that are an inevitable part of the parenting process. A good sense of humor will not only get you through a variety of difficult situations, it will model for your children how they can use humor in coping with their own challenges as they grow and mature.
My assertion of the need for a good sense of humor is more than a mere passing observation. It is biblical, and it is medically healthy. Proverbs 17:22 states, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Undoubtedly, parents would prefer to raise their children with cheerful hearts, rather than crushed spirits. What better way to achieve this end than to model a cheerful heart yourself?
Low self-esteem (a crushed spirit) can make life very difficult for your child, negatively impacting his mental, emotional, and physical health. There are many well documented research studies supporting this, and such studies indicate the damage can be long-lasting and severe. A crushed spirit inhibits your child’s interest in attempting new challenges and reduces the probability that he will excel in those endeavors he does attempt.
Yet out of exhaustion and exasperation, many parents will often snap, yell, and crush the child’s spirit. Is spilled milk or chocolate ice cream on a shirt really that bad? If you laugh at such circumstances—instead of yelling—both you and your child will feel better. This does not mean that you cannot correct or discipline your child. You should and you can. But do it after a good laugh and your child will pay much more attention to your correction (and your manner of correction will probably be much more appropriate).
Another benefit to possessing a good sense of humor and learning to laugh at life’s situations is that it is medically healthy. You may have heard of or read about Norman Cousins, the former editor of Saturday Review, who upon learning he was suffering from a crippling and life-threatening collagen disease, went to a hotel room and spent days watching funny movies. He continued to self-prescribe a daily dose of belly laughter for his ailment, and he eventually recovered from the disease.
From research for my own television series, Healthy Living with Teresa Tanoos™, I have similarly discovered that laughter can be some of the best medicine around. Laughter reduces and can even shut off the flow of certain stress hormones which are normally produced when we experience stress or anger. Stress hormones suppress the immune system, increase the number of blood platelets (which cause obstructions in arteries) and raise blood pressure. When we laugh, natural enzymes are produced that destroy tumors and viruses. Laughter also encourages the production of gamma-interferon (a disease fighting protein), T-cells (an immune response cell), and B-cells (a natural antibody).
Additionally, laughter is aerobic. Laughing 100 times is the equivalent of spending 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Laughing lowers your blood pressure, increases blood flow, oxygenates your blood (a good thing) and facilitates healing. Laughter gives your diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout while providing a healthy outlet for your negative emotions of fear, anger and sadness.
So, go ahead. Laugh at this all you want, because laughter is good for your health—and it is good for the health of your children.
Have you had a good laugh with your child today?