My husband is a funny guy. On a regular basis, he says things that make me snort. For instance, this morning, I said, “I can’t wait to build my Girl Power Station and help parents be less harried.” He queried, “Less hairy? What, are we gonna’ have electrolysis stations?” I said, “Less HARRIED, dork!” He said, “Okay, we can do that, too.” It reminded me of why I married him. His default emotion is laughter, and he wields it like a weapon against my default emotion of anxiety. Laughter is the glue that binds us.
Laughter connects us all, as humans. If you focus on laughter, everything else will turn out okay. You can laugh at cancer and fear and heartache; I’ve done it, and it helps. The old saying, “Misery loves company” can become “Misery could use a little giggle.” Laughter makes a happy home, and a happy home makes happy kids. You can’t buy laughter like you can’t buy love, because there is an internal opening that needs to occur in both. You must open your heart and be vulnerable for true mirth or true love to blossom. That’s why the snark-fest that exists in social media today doesn’t feel really funny to me.
Sure, you can guffaw at someone else’s expense, because it catches you off guard, like gawking at an auto accident. It takes you by surprise, so you react. That’s human. I get it. But when you continually seek out this dark, snarky humor, don’t you feel a little less human? Doesn’t it feel like you need to take a shower afterwards? I’ve been watching “The Newsroom” on HBO go, and, like Will McAvoy, I’m on a mission to civilize.
I love this show, because it’s so well written that it makes me want to craft words just as elegantly. It makes me want to be a better writer, help more people, and be a better human. What if we use that as criteria for parenting? I will expose myself and my children to things that make us better human beings. I will seek out civility, humor and the vulnerability that allows me to giggle with my kids, without worrying about what other people will think. When we are laughing, we are connected. Teaching that connection, that love of community and civility, is the cornerstone of my parenting plan.
If I can raise good citizens who are kind, funny and responsible for their words and actions, then I’ve done my job as a parent. How do I manage that? Here’s a few tips:
1. Cultivate Kindness and Respect by Treating Your Kids with Respect: In the south we say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir”. In my house, we say that to everyone from the trash collector to the bank manager. I say “yes ma’am” to my kids as well (sidebar: I apologize in print for saying “yes, ma’am” to my ever patient husband for the eleventy-ninth time, as he’s the only male in our house), because respect is a family value for us. Show the respect you want from your kids by respecting them first. All it takes is a little humility and willingness to be vulnerable.
2. Be Humble: Humility is a practice in connection. Recognize that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. Everyone goes to the dentist. Everyone wears a paper gown at the doctor’s office. Just because you’re older and bigger than your kids, or more powerful than your subordinates, doesn’t mean that you can lord it over them. That’s bully behavior. If you use it with your kids, they will use it with other kids. Bullying stops with humility and an awareness that we are all in this together. Foster connection by being humble, and respect will follow automatically.
3. Practice Connection: The more ways you can connect with other humans, the better your life will be. Our human experience is predicated upon living peacefully with others. The more distance we curry by pretending that we are better than someone, because we have more money, thinner thighs, or a higher IQ, the more distance we create. That distance leads to inhumane behavior from tabloid tell-alls of inherently private experiences to genocide. It all starts with a devaluation of another person. When we cut off our kids or treat them as inferior, it’s step one in disconnection. When you’re frustrated, take a moment and ask yourself, “In this moment, how can I connect?” The answer will involve seeing value in a loving connection instead of a bottom line or a TODO list. Make the effort. It’s worth it.
Connection is a powerful tool in parenting. If you’re connected to your kids, your parenting life is much easier, and discipline becomes a conversation instead of a fight. If you focus on getting your kids to respect you and do what you want at all costs, you will foster distance between you and your children. When you focus on developing connection, mutual respect is an organic by-product. Laughter is one of the easiest ways to establish connection with your kids. If you can make your kids laugh, you’re connected to them on a level that bypasses their inherent need to establish independence. It puts you both on the same team, striving for the same goals and supported by the same values. If you don’t believe me, try it! Let yourself be drawn into the inherent hilarity of life, and then share it with your kids. Then tell me how it goes in the comments below.
PS Our March FREE worried mamas live coaching call is on the books! March 18, 2015 at 12pm CT. You know it’ll be a great one when it’s titled, “How to Raise a Teenager without wanting a Margarita at 10am” … All the details are here.