Laughter is an amazing medicine. This is not new information. In fact, one ancient Hebrew proverb states that “a cheerful heart is good medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22). Laughter is like medicine, not only to the soul but to the whole person. Consider these “medicinal benefits” of laughter:
- Laughter decreases the secretion of stress hormones in the body while increasing the release of natural “feel good” hormones like endorphins (the same hormone responsible for the “runner’s high”).
- Laughter stimulates the immune system, building our resistance to illness.
- Laughter decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It expands the blood vessels to allow greater flow of blood (along with the oxygen and nutrients it brings) through the body. At the same time, laughter decreases blood pressure in the long run.
- Laughter stimulates the release of natural painkillers in the body.
- Laughter stimulates the release of “hormones and neuropeptides” (like dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins) related to feelings of happiness, bonding, tolerance, generosity, compassion, and unconditional love.
- Laughter breaks down relational barriers and increases intimacy. Studies show that men and women who laugh together are more attracted to one another.
- Laughter keeps relationships fresh.
- Laughter empties the lungs of “residual air” so we can inhale higher levels of oxygen. Oxygen coursing through our body retards aging, relieves headaches, and boosts our immune system among other things.
- “Laughing creates a total body response that is clinically beneficial. It exercises the facial, chest, abdominal, and skeletal muscles and improves their tone…” –Professor A. Berk of Johns Hopkins University.
- PS—You can read about these and more benefits of laughter at the Laughter Wellness Institute. Check it out and enjoy a laugh. http://laughterwellness.org/
We all want our family to experience optimal physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. Without laughter, your family’s health is missing an important ingredient. So, find ways to bring laughter into your family life as often as you can. After all, the benefits of laughter for your family are no laughing matter.
Paul Young’s was right: “A man doesn’t need to be flawless to be a perfect father….” In fact, we will never be flawless parents. We make mistakes. We fall short. “But,” Mr. Young wisely continues, “the commitment to his family is a precious responsibility”—a precious responsibility to become actively involved in his family’s life. A father’s active involvement in his family’s life has a rippling effect. Consider how these ripples impact the lives of those in your family.
- By playing and rough housing with his children, a father teaches his children self-control, skills to manage emotions, and perseverance. These translate into a better ability to resolve interpersonal problems as they grow older. Successfully resolving interpersonal problems means more satisfying relationships. Successful, intimate relationships growing as interpersonal problems get resolved ripples out even to this father’s grandchildren.
- An actively involved father promotes self-confidence in his children. His involvement helps them recognize their ability to achieve, boosting their chance of success in life. Research suggests that an involved father boosts his daughter’s career success in particular. Self-confidence and humble success ripples out from an involved father.
- An actively involved father will support his children’s mother as well. This reduces her stress and enhances her confidence as a mother. She becomes happier and more satisfied with her role as mother and wife. As a result, her parenting ability actually improves, giving the children the blessing of two effective parents. As a father supports his children’s mother, his children also have the privilege and blessing of witnessing a positive marriage. The effects of this blessing will ripple to your grandchildren as your children emulate your supportive marital relationship.
- An actively involved father enhances family communication. When a father models open communication, his family becomes more confident with open communication. This contributes to fewer behavior problems, greater empathy, and less anxiety and depression. Everyone feels more valued and significant in an environment of open communication, active listening, and genuine concern. A lifetime of greater emotional health ripples out from such a home.
- An actively involved father increases the likelihood that his sons will become actively involved fathers and his daughter will marry father who becomes actively involved in his family. By his active involvement, a father sets the stage for his grandchildren and his grandchildren’s grandchildren to experience the same joys of an actively involved father in their lives. That is an amazing legacy!
It’s true: a father’s “commitment to his family is a precious responsibility” that ripples through his family to enhance the lives of his wife, his children, and even his grandchildren! Start the ripple by becoming actively involved in your family today.
School has begun. That means getting our children up in the morning and off to school on time. If that isn’t hard enough, we want to get them off in the morning while everyone stays in a good mood. Not an easy task. However, there are steps we can take to make the morning go smoother and prime our children for a better day, a day that starts with a good mood. Here are six suggestions to help.
- A smooth morning routine begins with an effective bedtime routine. Help your children get to bed early enough to get a good night’s rest. This may mean turning all devices off and relaxing together for an hour before bedtime. Read a book together. Talk about the day. Snuggle. Keep your children’s bedroom conducive for sleep as well. This may mean no TV, video games, or cell phones in the bedroom.
- Prepare what you can the night before. Lay out the clothes. Pack the lunches. Put homework, books, and school supplies into backpacks before going to bed. Teaching your children to pack for school the night before also teaches them to think ahead and prepare for life in general.
- Get your older children their own alarm clock. Help your children think about how much time they need to get ready. Teach them to set their alarm on their own. Then, allow them to accept the responsibility of getting up on their own.
- If they struggle to complete their morning routine, use something they find interesting to set up a “challenge” for them. For instance, our daughter liked Dragon Tales. We printed a picture of one of her favorite dragons and turned it into a simple puzzle. We gave her one puzzle piece for each part of the routine she completed—brushing her teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc. When she finished her morning routine, she had completed a picture of her favorite dragon. This helped motivate her to keep working her way through the routine. Use whatever interests your children to motivate them through the morning routine.
- Let them suffer their own consequences…especially as they get older. If they run late, don’t rush to make up their lost time. Let them suffer the consequences of arriving at school late. Let them experience the discomfort of getting up late and rushing through the morning routine, possibly missing their shower or having to eat as they run out the door. Don’t rescue them if, in their rush, they forget to take something to school. We all learn from the consequences of our mistakes. Give your child the opportunity and the dignity to do the same.
- Establishing a good morning routine sets the pace for the rest of the day. It primes our day and our children’s day. If you’re grumpy, they’ll be grumpy too. Act in a way that will encourage your children toward a positive day. Be kind. Encourage. Share a loving hug as they leave for the day.
These six simple steps can help your children’s morning routine go more smoothly. They will also help you build a more positive relationship with your children and prime them for a better day.
Remember Annie, the incurable optimist who looked toward a better tomorrow and gleefully sang “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”? Well, she’s right. We need to put on a smile before we greet our families. There is a magic in your smile that will brighten your spouse’s day and your children’s lives. Your smile can impact your whole family in at least three ways.
- Smiling is contagious. Seeing you smile will activate a brain response in your spouse and children that will encourage them to smile as well. We like to see people smile. Everyone looks better when they smile. Smiling people are more fun to be around. And, if you’re like me, you definitely enjoy a smiling family more than a frowning, sulky one! So smile and watch your family smile with you!
- Smiling activates shower of “feel-good neurotransmitters” like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in the brain. This is like getting a free “all natural, health enhancing, mod boosting, feel-good” brain shower. Dopamine gives us a sense of feeling rewarded. It helps us feel good. Smiling releases dopamine and we feel rewarded; we feel good. Endorphins are natural pain killers. Smiling can reduce the sensation of pain. Serotonin is a mood enhancer. Your smile offers you and your observing family (since smiling is contagious) a little feel-good brain shower. It’s all natural and health enhancing. So smile around your family and let the contagious feel-good family brain shower begin.
- Smiling makes us more approachable. A smile is inviting. It communicates a willingness to engage and interact. Smile—the more you do, the more likely your family will view you as approachable and available. The more likely your spouse and children will come to you to talk when they are used to seeing your smiling face! You will be the one they come to for advice, a listening ear, and plain old enjoyable conversation. Knowing your family wants to come to you for conversation is enough to make anyone smile…and when you do you’ll be even more approachable!
Annie was right. “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” When you smile more, your family will smile more. When you share smiles with your family, everyone will enjoy a lovely shower of “all natural, health enhancing, mood boosting, feel-good” brain chemicals. And, when you smile you increase the likelihood of your spouse and children coming to you when they need to talk. For the sake of your family, finish getting dressed…put on that smile.
Parents often give children an allowance to motivate them to complete chores. Unfortunately, I have found allowances to be poor motivators. Don’t get me wrong.
Allowances often worked in our family for a short time…but then no longer worked. They would work again when our child had something they really wanted to buy (the real motivator); but they often had nothing they really wanted to buy. So, the motivation of receiving an allowance generally seemed short-lived and faded quickly. At least it did for us. Still, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Allowances can offer a great learning experience once we wrap our head around their real purpose. What is that real purpose? The purpose for giving an allowance is not to motivate but to teach. Allowances help our children learn the value of hard work and the benefit of managing money responsibly. Kevin Lehman describes one way to use an allowance to teach our children responsible and wise money management in his book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. I share it with you below.
First, determine what chores your children can do and a fair “salary” for that work. Then, give your children their first week’s pay. I know…they haven’t earned it yet. Consider it a “signing bonus” or an advance. Now your children can begin completing their assigned chores. If they forget a chore, someone else will have to do it. But such choices carry a price in the real world. The one who chooses to neglect his chore must pay the one who completes it. Your child will have to dip into his allowance and pay his brother, sister, or parent for the chore they completed for him.
On another occasion, your children may decide they are too tired or too busy to do their chore. It still needs completed, so they can negotiate with another family member to do it…and pay them out of their own allowance.
If our children aren’t careful, they will run out of their allowance money half way through the week. At that point, they have to do their own chores because “they got no money” to pay the help. They have learned several things, including:
- It costs money to have someone else do my work.
- I only have so much money.
- When I’m out of money, I can’t pay for help.
- I need to use money wisely.
- Doing work, even for a brother or sister, can result in making more money.
- When children manage their chores and allowance wisely, they save money. They learn that hard work can help them save money.
In this way, allowances are a great teaching tool to help our children learn the value of work and the wisdom of managing money.
In this time we call our own and in a home very near to our hearts, there rages an epic battle for the families we call our own. This battle rages between those principalities that wield great power in their efforts to tear the family apart and those in the resistance who quietly, on a daily basis, strive to create and maintain the community of honor, grace, and love we call family. This battle will not be won or lost through legal proceedings or in dramatic cultural changes. No, the victory for the family rests on the meek and powerful deeds of kindness we share with one another. That’s right. Victory rises up on the shoulders of every kind deed and polite word that draws family members together. Victory comes to the kind! Don’t believe it? Well, let me share ten acts of kindness that strike terror in the heart of powers opposed to families and foretell victory for your family today!
- Say “thank you” to the person in your family who cooks, does laundry, cleans, puts gas in the car, takes care of your pet, mows the lawn, etc.…. (Learn other phrases of kindness in Family Investment Easy as 1…2…3…)
- After you say “thank you,” ask that person how you can help them today!
- Hold the door open for your spouse or children and let them go first.
- Encourage one another.
- Smile at one another (I know this is especially hard in the mornings and for teens…but take one for the family.)
- Compliment one another often. Giving one another compliments will really complement your family.
- Offer to get a drink for your parents, siblings, spouse, or children. Give it to them with a smile and a twinkle of delight in your eye. When they say “Thank you,” reply with “You’re welcome” or the standard “My pleasure.” (Read The Chick Fil A Family Interaction Model)
- Do an extra chore around the house, one usually done by a different family member.
- Give each member of your family a hug and tell them you love them. (Read how to Become a Master Hugger)
- As a family, do each of these for people outside your family as well. In fact, do each on for the members of your family and those outside your family on a daily basis.
This may sound simplistic. How can we “save the family” by practicing simple kindness on a daily basis? But kindness is powerful. Paul goes so far as to call kindness one of God’s greatest tools in drawing us into an intimate relationship with Him: “Do you think lightly of the riches of God’s kindness and tolerance and patience, knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). If kindness is a powerful tool for God’s victory in our lives, it will surely prove a powerful weapon for victory in the lives of our families. We model our kindness toward family after God’s kindness toward us. As such, simple acts of kindness carry the power to win the battle for the family…and not just any family, your family. With every gentle touch of kindness, you will see intimacy grow. Security and confidence increase. Joy flood into our lives and relationships. With every powerful act of kindness, victory draws near.
My family and I just returned from our annual trip to Family Camp at Camp Christian. Once again, Jim and Terry Jones organized a wonderful weekend of relaxation, fun, and worship. We enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making new friends. This year, Tim Jones was our speaker. Tim and his wife, Lisa, minister through “Windows of Hope” with BLOC ministries in the inner city of Cincinnati. They are passionate, loving people with a great sense of humor and a deep love for Christ. Tim encouraged us to do several things to strengthen our families.
- He encouraged us to “Be Real” in our homes. No one’s life is perfect. We all have our ups and downs. We grow closer, more intimate, and even stronger when we do not hide those ups and downs from one another but use them as opportunities to connect instead. It may feel vulnerable to “open up”, “get real,” and share our deepest emotions, but it will give your family an intimacy and strength you will never know otherwise.
- Tim also asked the question, “What’s The Big Deal?” In this workshop, Tim shared the impact of sin in the lives of individuals and families. Every sinful action is connected to wires that “blow up” a series of consequences that can kill relationships and destroy lives. We may ask, “What’s the big deal?” but the consequences are deadly! In response, Tim encouraged us to live a life of faithfulness and integrity in our families, a life to protect them from the deadly consequences wired to sinful behaviors.
- We also learned about “God’s Secret Weapon” (one of my favorite lessons, I might add). God has a “not-so-secret” weapon He has given to us, a weapon we can use to touch other people’s lives inside and outside our families. This weapon is “God’s favorite move” and has become one of mine as well. It brings release of pain and breaks the powers of loneliness. It breaks down walls and overcomes barriers. What is God’s favorite move, the secret weapon He has given to us? Kindness. One way to show kindness is through the open arms that welcome one another into the grasp of a loving hug! I think I’ll give a few extra oxytocin hugs (read 3-2-1 Release to learn about this “move”) today to celebrate “God’s favorite move.”
- Finally, Tim reminded us that we have a “built in, self-activating, guilt free, God ordained party package”…and we need to use it to Celebrate family and life every day! Celebrate family and life by sharing activities like singing, dancing, laughing, and playing. After all, life is a gift. Family is a gift. Friendship is a gift. Every breath we take is a gift. Celebrate! If you have trouble coming up with ideas to celebrate family, try some of the ideas on the “Celebrate Page” of the Honor Grace Celebrate website.
- One other thing, unrelated to the worship times, that I always find inspiring at family camp. Every year we have a talent show. People from preschoolers to adults share their talent. And, we truly witness some amazing talent at Camp Christian. Many times we experience the joy of watching this talent mature and grow as children grow up. Most of all though, I love that the talent show is fun and encouraging. The audience encourages each and every person who shares. There is a real sense of love and encouragement permeating the talent show. No competition. No ridicule. Just fun, love, and encouragement…a real celebration of the life and talent God has given.
Well, that’s what I learned at family camp this year. We had a great time. Thank you Jim and Terri for organizing another great weekend. We look forward to next year. Will you join us?
One of my Facebook friends posted this pic. I love the proverb written on it: “If a man expects a woman to be an angel in his life, he must first create heaven for her…angels don’t live in hell.” I don’t know about you, but I want to live with an angel. So, I have to ask myself: how can I create heaven for my wife? How can I make my wife feel like an angel? Upon what is heaven built?
- Heaven is built on honor—treating one another as special, precious, sacred. To create heaven for your wife, treat her with honor. Honor her above all others like a diamond above coal. Constantly think about the character and beauty you adore in your wife. Don’t stop with merely thinking about your admiration of her character and beauty. Let your words and actions communicate love and admiration to your wife. Let your eyes sparkle with delight and adoration when she walks into the room. Speak of her with high praise when you describe her to others.
- Heaven is built on unfailing trust. To create heaven for your wife, live a life of integrity and faithfulness that will build trust. Let your actions and your speech enhance her sense of security and acceptance. Keep your promises. Be available. Remember: the small, positive moments build trust; so, enjoy playful interactions, simple adventures, joyful moments and moments of sorrow, friendly conversations, and laughter. Work to “keep in tune” with your wife’s emotions. Comfort her when she needs comforted. Rejoice with her when she rejoices. Rest with her when she needs rest. Join with her in life.
- Heaven is built on servanthood. To create heaven for your wife, become a servant in your marriage. Serve your wife by listening to her and accepting her influence. Serve her by cooking dinner, washing clothes, or running the vacuum. Serve her by asking what she would like you to do to help her. Become the leader of servanthood in your home.
- Heaven is built on sacrifice. Jesus willingly became the Sacrifice for our sin, a sacrifice that brought peace between man and God. Sacrifice opens the doors to heaven. To create heaven in your home, become a leader in sacrifice. Make small sacrifices like giving up the TV remote, giving away the last cookie, giving up your seat for your wife, giving up “the game” to take a walk…you get the idea. You may also make bigger sacrifices like giving up your music to listen to her music in the car, giving up time on your project to do what she desires, giving up the adventure movie to watch a “chick flick” followed by the emotional discussion of the movie…. You know what would prove a heavenly sacrifice in your home. And, you know that your sacrifice will produce greater security and open the doors for heaven in your home.
“Expect your wife to be an angel in your life”? Start creating heaven in your home. Build your home and marriage on honor, integrity and trust, servanthood, and sacrifice. Believe me, you will live with an angel…and you will get a taste of heaven on earth!