Behavior Management is Just a Laugh Away

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As children, we can find the simplest of things to be the funniest thing *EVER* to have happened in the history of our short lives on this planet. Laughter is one of the first noises that most babies start making around 3-4 months of age. At 2 months they can start smiling and they use this as a process of social interaction. If you are faced with your parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, and all their friends and co-workers smiling at you every time they see you…I’m not surprised that babies smile back! Think about the game of ‘peek-a-boo’. It is such a simple concept, but the developmental process of understanding that a person is right there in front of you, is then covered but reappears is of no significance to a 11-month-old but within a few weeks can be fascinating because the child now understands what is happening. You will hide, but you come back! The laughter shows that sign of, “Oh I understand this – it’s a game!” When parents leave their children to go do something in another room, the child begins to understand that they will come back. When a barrier blocks access to a toy, the child knows they can still get to it by reaching around – showing that they know that the object is still there, even if they cannot see it.

Have you ever spent an extended period of time just laughing at something with a toddler? It’s such a powerful experience! They have this magical ability to laugh at anything and everything. When you think about children’s books and conversations you have with toddlers, the second a made up word or perhaps a string of rhyming words appears the children will laugh as they show their understanding of language that sounds unusual to normal patterns of words – it is funny!

Three year olds find toilet humor the greatest thing to ever exist! They play with the words and use them to make other children laugh as well as themselves. The reason this happens is, as children go through things they might find challenging, they feel the need to experiment with the vocabulary in order to understand it. Sharing this vocabulary with others and them having a reaction of, “Yes! I feel the same way too!” is not only comforting, but it provides that sense of “It’s not just me who is having a hard time.” And if the adults around them think it isn’t funny and it needs to be stopped? Well, that just fuels the fire and creates a greater need to do it even more! As for thirty-three year olds who find bathroom humor funny, I have no idea. I am one of them (although technically I am 34 now). It just is! HAHA! #sorrynotsorry

The four, five and six year olds who now start to make their own jokes are also experimenting with language. They find alliteration amusing, they make up their own nonsense words to rhyme with and they find pure delight when others laugh at their contributions. The concept of a more formal joke e.g. “Why did the cow cross the road?” can produce a ripple effect of laughter when the answers can range from, “To go to the moovies” to “Because it was raining and she had to get home to her mummy” to “He wanted to”. The more language a child is acquiring, the more they are able to play with it and elicit different reactions from different ages of other people.

As adults, we can find things amusing, laugh at jokes and giggle with our friends…but that pure laughter that is grown out of nowhere and is ‘just because’ is sometimes harder to access.

There are several health benefits of laughter, some of which are:

  • Relaxes muscles
  • Boosts immune system
  • Releases natural feel-good chemicals (endorphins)
  • Increases blood flow
  • Burns calories
  • Puts problems into perspective
  • Natural painkiller

Dr. Madan Kataria founded the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement, inspired from facial feedback hypothesis – the effect that the moves your face makes can have an effect on your emotions, rather than just your emotions being expressed through facial movements after the fact. Laughter can help to switch off stress and instead help you deal with sadness, fear and even aggression. It helps you to relax, recharge and improve relationships. Even more exciting for early childhood peeps, laughter can stimulate a willingness to learn, increase creativity and imagination, and even help with self-regulation! These benefits are also good for us as fully grown human beings, not just the children we care for.

Laughter Wellness is a slightly different take on Dr. Kataria’s program, it is a ‘complete and fast-acting well-being program designed to spark laughter and arouse pleasant feelings and positive energies, while improving people’s health and quality of life.’ I am currently undertaking a Laughter Wellness course with Sebastian Gendry from the Laughter Online University. I cannot wait to complete it and begin to share my experiences with children and adults alike. It will be a great addition to your classroom, it can be done with any age of children and the best thing about it is, you can access laughter at any time because you can. You don’t need a stimulus to laugh, you just do it! I am also going to be offering staff trainings in Laughter Wellness to provide team-building, relationship strengthening and sharing some of the strategies you can use with the children yourself. I cannot wait! It’s going to be so fun.

My take away from all of this that I hope you can see, is that if you can find the laughter in those hard moments of classroom management – when you feel like everything that could go wrong IS going wrong – I promise you, laughing will lift your spirits and in turn have a ripple effect on everyone in the room. You are responsible for how you show up in the classroom. If you make your classroom a fun, enjoyable, happy place to be, you are more likely to control your composure and deliver behavior management strategies that are developmentally appropriate for the age you are working with, in a more kind and compassionate manner. Who doesn’t want that from someone when they are having a hard time?

See if you can find some laughter out of nowhere. Can you laugh on demand? It’s really hard to do, especially when you are feeling blue (ooh that rhymed, how funny!) but just try it and see how you feel afterwards. Let me know in the comments below what you found funny recently!

I’m going to finish this post with a joke I heard from a five-year-old, brace yourselves…it’s amazing!

Him: Knock knock

Me: Who’s there?

Him: One

Me: One who?

Him: One booty!

He then proceeded to literally roll on the floor laughing…and I did too ????

Emma is The Play Coach who loves everything and anything to do with play. Play is children's work and she thinks it should be adult's work too. Connect with Emma for consultations and trainings that promote wonder, joy and well-being through the power of play.