Humor forms basis for a child’s faith in parents (1936)

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Jollity and laughter cement family ties

Sense of humor forms basis for child’s faith in parents

by Olive Roberts Barton


Fun is something to cultivate assiduously. There is an old saying that a merry man liveth longer than a sorry one, and it is true.

Different things draw families together. One is a common hate. Another is sorrow. It takes emotions to unify any group. But laughter serves two purposes. It unites people and leaves no dregs of conscience or bad digestion. Balm for the soul and a pepsin tablet as well.

Humor boosts trust

Now we have heard for years and years a lot about children having confidence in their parents. And I happen to believe that a sense of humor is a basis of trust. Salesmen understand the psychology of the joke.

What would have happened to the traveling salesman of old without Joe Miller’s joke book? What would become of the high-powered salesman of today without the products of the cartoonists, the radio-mongers, the professional wits? And so, I believe the parent can sell himself to his children by the same means. By being jolly and keeping the ball of fun rolling, he is going to establish faith in himself and his works. If Johnny can think, “Dad can spank pretty hard, but he can laugh, too,” Johnny is going to heed his discipline without animus and with considerable profit.

There is far too little real merriment in the world. People go out to buy it, to get a synthetic kick from listening to the machine-made joke.

Then, too, the success of any party is laughter. What dummy does not know that? Yet, with all these things before him, the average parent fails to use them as a basis of power in the home. Instead he, or she, seems to prefer the grim, or outraged, or critical or depressive attitude toward tho children. Figure it out. It isn’t so very intelligent, is it?

Child appreciates tact

The most interesting homes I have been in were those where father or mother or both, made a point of see ing humor in tragedy. Or at leas what would ordinarily have been construed as tragedy.

Mother, for instance, smells an awful smell. She finds long-dead worms in Johnny’s pocket. Instead of gagging over her dinner and making Johnny feel like a hangman, she embellishes the story for the rest. Soon the whole family is convulsed, and Johnny, whose worst fault is forgetfulness, could kiss her for her tact. And the chances are that said son will remember not to forget again. Merriment impresses itself on memory.

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To sing and smile and turn the mouth up, that’s the secret of happy homes. To be born without a sense of humor or a twinkle of the eye is a real curse. But something can be done about it. That is to keep still and not ruin everyone else’s fun. One thing I should like to add. Cruel fun is outside the pale. Sarcasm or poking at anyone’s expense is worse than a whip. It sears and burns itself into memory with a vengeance.

Pure fun is kindly, boosts imagination and inspires. The family that can laugh its way, short of being silly or cruel, is bound to be in common; but the family without the best. Its members have bonds the ties of common interest soon prefers other people and other homes to its own.

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