5 Ways To Increase Laughter In Your Home

Laughter…is there really anything that you can do that is better than laughing? For me, nothing compares to it. I also bet, that if you think about it, you would have a hard time disagreeing with me on that statement.

Laughter truly is the best medicine as well. From a physical standpoint, laughter relaxes the whole body, triggers the release of endorphins, burns calories, boosts immunity, lowers stress hormones, and can decrease pain. From a mental standpoint, laughter helps ease anxiety, improves mood, and can strengthen resilience. 

Most laughter is brought on through social situations, meaning it happens with and through interactions with others. Laughter in the social realm can strengthen relationships, promote bonding, and diffuse conflict.

Besides personally laughing, the most awesome and beautiful experience is listening to a child laugh. Children’s laughter is music to my ears. I relish the moments where I catch my kid’s belly laughing. It is truly the best sound in the world.

Laughter is contagious. Yes, that is a cliche but test it out! The next time you are in public make your child laugh and watch everyone around you…I wager that they begin to smile and may even join in the happiness. We are social beings and laughter is a prime attractor in life.

There is a crazy stat out there that reads something like this: Toddlers (children) laugh on average of 300 times a day. Whereas, adults only laugh an average of 20. I couldn’t verify how accurate that was (some say it’s a myth) but I do know that my children sure do laugh a lot more than I do. I think we can all agree that children habitually laugh more than adults.

So, how can you bring more laughter into your home life?  Here are five simple things that you can do to encourage more laughter in your home.

  1. Smile.  Smiling is the first step before any laughter begins.  Smiles, like laughter, are also contagious.  Smile at everyone and everything…and notice the effect that it has on others. Smiling attracts others and can transform any situation.
  2. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Yes, I know, another cliche…but it is simple and an effective way to rewire your brain to smile. Share your gratitude with others as it opens a doorway to a stronger more appreciative relationship.
  3. Watch comedy shows with your family! This one is so simple that I don’t have much more to add. If you are going to tune in and pass some time, comedy shows/movies are always a great option.
  4. Self-deprecate! This one is really one of my favorites. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Self-deprecating humor is funny for everyone involved. It also teaches your child that no one is perfect and that is totally ok! It normalizes the experience of life and that no one can be perfect.
  5. Laugh at situations where things don’t go smoothly instead of showing anger/frustration. Like above this normalizes the situation and models a constructive behavior for your kids. Take a wrong turn driving? Drop an egg on the floor? Yell, something like “PLOT TWIST” and immediately provide levity to the situation.

Laughter is always a blessing and I cannot get enough of it. One additional thought here: study your children and figure out what they laugh at most…then play to that tendency. Doing so can provide a safe exit sign for them when they are triggered by difficult emotions.

Below is a clip my wife captured of my son laughing a little over a year ago…Enjoy!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by via Unsplash.

Coaching vs. Directing: Helping Your Child Develop Critical Thinking Skills

This post is dedicated to my mentor Peggy. You have modeled and coached these behaviors since we’ve met. Simple but powerful. Thank you for coaching me on how to develop a thinking child.

Perhaps you have heard something similar to the following examples:

“Daddy, daddy! <insert name> is not giving me a turn with the basketball”

Or

“DAD! <insert name> is not playing fair. I only have one marker while she is holding the rest!”

Really I could type for days how many times a similar type of conversation has started with my kiddos. I could easily just pop in or out whatever their problem is at that moment…and it is all really the same. Bottom line: My child is seeking me out to solve a problem for them.

Don’t take the bait. There is a hook in there that will be hard to remove. Making a habit of jumping in and solving their immediate need sets a precedent that you will be the traffic cop for all their relational (and other) problems.

Now, truth be told, I used to buy into what they were saying and play the role of directing traffic to get their play back to normal. So when my child would complain that their sibling would not be sharing my typical response sounded like this:

“HEY! Make sure you guys are taking turns!”

Or

“GUYS! No fighting! Be sure to share!”

These moments, that seem so normal, so innocuous, are critical and important in developing your child’s problem solving skills. Yet, when I solved their problems by telling them what to do, I was really only robbing them of the opportunity to grow.

A much better way to approach this issue is to ask them questions. Asking questions allows the child to own the problem, think about solutions, and learn from working through it. Instead of telling, we are now redirecting using simple questions like:

“What is your plan….?”

“How does that make you feel?”

“What can you ask…..?”

“How will you……?”

By asking reflective questions we act more like a road sign to a destination. We simply assist in helping the child start the problem-solving process. Coaching the child in this way gives them space to develop critical skills for relationships and life.

This method of parenting takes practice and can seem inconvenient at the moment but I challenge you: Would you rather always be traffic cop or have children that develop skills so they do not always need your involvement?

Me? I would rather watch the traffic instead of play in it.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Brittany Colette via Unsplash.

5 “Dangerous” Things Your Kids Should Do

This post was inspired by watching my son step on a basketball, fall down, and wickedly scrap his knee. As I assessed the situation and tended to his wound, I couldn’t help but think there was no way I could have helped him avoid that. He wasn’t looking as he turned to run and stepped on a ball that was rolling by his feet. The bottom line was this: Kids can get hurt doing anything with anything…AND THAT IS OK! They learn from it.

Now if I acted like our town (which I care deeply for) with how they build playgrounds…I would have replaced my driveway with a bouncy foam floor and removed all balls from our yard…I would have also put up signs warning my kids of all the risks associated with everything found on our property…moreover, I would then buy knee pads for my kids so they can’t scrap their knees anymore…I would also make it mandatory to be present as they played. Yikes!

Too much you say? Yet have you looked around lately? Society is child proofing the world and parents are overreacting when it comes to risk associated play. I am guilty of this as well. I find that this appears in two ways with my kids:

  1. If I don’t want something bad to happen (injury, broken things, etc.), I will completely remove the item in question. This way I eliminate the possibility of a less than favorable outcome.
  2. Micro managing their play. I did this more when they were toddlers. This shows up in saying things like: “be careful” or “take your time” or “watch out!”

But what are we really doing besides providing ourselves convenience of not having to deal with crying and band-aids? Essentially, we are robbing our kids of valuable, teachable moments where they can develop.

Removing risk cripples our child’s development. Some of the ways their development is crippled by over protection:

  • Inability to assess risk and solve problems (critical thinking)
  • Risk aversion (being self reliant and how to handle anxiety)
  • physical and manual competence (less exercise, hand eye coordination, lack initiative)

Now I am not saying that we should not have a watchful eye or not let them enter wreckless abandom. I am simply asserting that with risk associated play we have a great opportunity to teach our kids responsibility, awareness, and foundational life skills.

Below are five things that you should let your child do and coach them along the way.

  1. Wrestling– Wrestling or rough housing does wonders for the kids development. They get to test all of their muscles while building awareness and coordination. Wresting is great exercise! It also teaches respect for others as kids will often learn how to create rules around the “fighting”. When I wrestle my kids I state a rule like no hitting. Then I let them give me a rule or two to follow (usually they say no tickling as I am a sucker for making them laugh!).
  2. Build something with real tools (hammer/saw)– I once gave my son a scrap piece of wood with a few nails and screws. That is all he did for two straight days (AND IT WAS A FREE ACTIVITY). He did bang his fingers a couple of times and scratched my porch but he now has real life skills. Tools when misused can be very dangerous but by starting them at an early age they can develop respect for them and a workable knowledge of how they function.
  3. Climbing– Let your kids climb the tree (rock, steep hill)! This activity is great for developing their risk assessment skills. It also fosters personal confidence that they can think out and achieve a challenging task. Let us not forget about how their motor skills and fitness increase.
  4. Using a knife– This one almost belongs in the tools category but this goes beyond just creating something. When I grew up I was allowed to carve sticks and wood whenever I wanted. Talk about art work and satisfaction! With my dad’s guidance I learned how to hold a knife correctly, what direction to carve in (away from the body), how to keep a blade sharp, and how careful I needed to be. I am still amazed today by the number of adults who do not know knife basics and end up in the ER. Learning proper skills and a healthy respect for knives pays dividends later in life.
  5. Build and tend to a fire– Yes, fire! Just like knives there are a tremendous amount of adults who never learned the skills or the respect for one of natures most powerful forces. I grew up with a fireplace and a wood stove. I learned early on how to build a fire, tend to it, and manage it in a safe way. Respect is what they will be building here. Work with your kids on this one (keep it supervised). Allowing them to tend to a fire pit is a great way for them to learn the ins and outs of fire care.

We cannot protect our kids fully from life (nor should we). Yet, by allowing the right risk based activities we can coach them to build meaningful life skills, respect, and lay a foundation of what it means to be a fully functioning adult.

When I began writing this post I followed up with some research to validate my feelings. To my happy surprise much has been studied on this. If you would like more information here are some of the resources that I came across:

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Dan Edwards via Unsplash

Outdoors and Unsupervised…Let’em Play!

I love listening to my kids at play. I often can tell exactly what is going on by the tone of their voice or the shade of laughter I hear. Often, based on these sounds, I can accurately predict how their unsupervised play will end.

However, if my kids recognize that I am near, the dynamic of their play changes dramatically. Their tone and activities shift to giving me routine updates as to what they are doing, or who are slighting who, or my least favorite: playing referee.

In these moments I try to evade making anyone right or wrong. They know their dad is a problem solver and can quickly reconcile the situation. Yet, if I was to constantly judge and right the situations, I am only robbing them of important growth. It is critical for children to have good stretches of unsupervised play. Below I have listed five critical benefits of this type of play (reference: Jean Oram- it’s all kids play, see bottom).

Unsupervised play for children leads to:

Independence- Children begin to learn to function independently of their parents and others.

Social Skills- Children practice modes of conversation, how to interact, and how the world will respond to such usage.

Problem Solving- Children develop critical skills on how to break down a problem and resolve without aid.

Resiliency- Being able to solve problems and develop their own identity, children learn to regulate their emotions when things don’t go as planned.

Confidence– Children gain confidence in self that they can function in the world without constant guidance.

Now if we add in that, as much as possible, play should be outside, the benefits are multiplied. Children live through their senses as their intellect develops. Outdoor play is a complete sensory experience. Below are the main benefits of unsupervised outdoor play.

Intellectual Health Benefits: Children have reduced ADHD symptoms. While ADHD symptoms go down, concentration and mental acuity go up.

Physical Health Benefits: Children are more likely to be active while outside. Outside activity leads to an increase in motor fitness and a decrease in childhood obesity.

Mental Health Benefits: Being outside and unsupervised, children have an increased feeling of self-worth. They also have a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.

I love watching my kids outside hustling around the yard or just creating their own games with whatever toys they find. There is something magical about the outdoors that just cannot be duplicated inside. Let them run wild while keeping an eye on them from a distance. The benefits outway any potential risks of injury (AKA- let them climb the tree or jungle gym).

Be well

-MJ

Photo provided by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Benefits of unsupervised play were referenced from www.itsallkidsplay.ca by Jean Oram