My husband and I were shopping not long ago, when a great parenting story played out in front of us. We were in a sports store buying new shoes and we had started toward the front of the store with our purchases. Suddenly a loud crash startled us. We looked around to see a mom with her two young daughters, ten to twelve years of age. Their mouths were open, shocked at what had happened. Just a bump is all it took to bring down a huge display in the aisle. What happened next was the best part.
How many times have you seen a parent go berserk when a child makes a mess? This mom had it all together! Laughter rang out. In fact, the mother was laughing loudest, as her daughters quickly started picking up all the water bottles, giggling as they worked. I commented to the mom that she had handled the situation very well. She replied, “What else could I do?” I shook my head, knowing there were definitely other options she could have chosen.
Today kids are under pressure to fit in, to be the best, to please their parents, to live up to expectations. I cannot think of a better way to ease tension than to open up with a big belly laugh! Kids need laughter as an avenue to release tension and anxiety that builds up in their lives, just as we adults need a release valve.
We focus on how contagious colds, sniffles and sneezes are, but laughter is infectious too. Once it spreads, it totally changes the atmosphere. The mom in the store walked out the door with her daughters, still laughing and happy. I thought about how they could have been in tears, after a stern scolding for making such a scene.
We have read for years how laughter triggers healthy physical changes in our body. It strengthens our immune system, boosts our energy and protects against stress, to say nothing of it being free. However, these reasons are secondary to what it does for the parent-child relationship. When we forgive their mess-ups and even make life fun when bumps come at inconvenient times, they relax. A bonding occurs. Happy memories are made.
God has forgiven us, His children, for our mess-ups. Should we not do the same when our kids just cannot get it right? I remember my mother telling me once that she had done something silly. She said it was as if she heard God laughing. Could it be? I am sure God approves when our hearts make music instead of strife. It is then that we role model the good life for our children.
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NKJV).
Antje lives with her husband, Richard, in MS and is a columnist for Parents & Kids Magazine. She loves writing and speaking on marriage and parenting.