Three‐year‐old Nathan had an unfortunate tendency to whine, and Beth was at her wits’ end. She had tried talking, explaining, and ignoring, but nothing seemed to have any effect. One day Beth tried something that was probably more desperation than inspiration. As Nathan whined that he wanted some juice, Beth turned to him with a funny look on her face. “Nathan,” she said, “something is wrong with Mommy’s ears. When you whine, I can’t hear you at all!”
Again Nathan whined for juice, but this time Beth only shook her head and tapped her ear, looking around as if a mosquito were buzzing near her head. Nathan tried once more, but again Beth shook her head. Then Beth heard something different. The little boy took a deep breath and said in a low, serious voice, “Mommy, can I have some juice?” When Beth turned to look at him, he added “Please?” for good measure.
Beth laughed and scooped Nathan up for a hug before heading to the kitchen. “I can hear you perfectly when you ask so nicely,” she said. From that time on, all Beth had to do when Nathan began to whine was tap her ear and shake her head. Nathan would draw an exasperated breath—and begin again in a nicer tone of voice. Not everything can be treated lightly, of course. But rules become less difficult to follow when children know that a spontaneous tickling match or pillow battle might erupt at any moment. Taking time to lighten up and to laugh together works where discipline is concerned, too, and makes life more pleasant for everyone.
Humor in the Classroom
Have you noticed how appropriate humor in the classroom can quickly lighten problem situations? Humor can help shift students out of fight, flight, or freeze thinking.
We would like to emphasize appropriate humor. Be mindful that the humor doesn’t cause anyone to feel uncomfortable. Appropriate humor can help students gain new perspective and often can replace anger with laughter.
Research shows that when teachers use humor effectively, students benefit in a variety of ways. Specifically, students feel more connected to their teacher and learning improves. Furthermore, studies show that appropriate humor in the classroom results in students being more motivated, and they perform better academically. In fact, students report that they value the personal and social qualities of a teacher more than the teacher’s intellectual ability. Students clearly value a sense of humor in teachers, and research supports the benefits when teachers create a positive learning environment using humor and are willing to share jokes in the classroom.