Smiling at others and displaying a good sense of humor is not just a sign of being a friendly person, it also has two other benefits: it is good for your mental health and it also helps you to NOT become a target for a potential bully.
The acts of smiling and laughing have multiple benefits in your life. It gives the impression that you are a friendly person with a good personality. It alerts people that you are most likely self-confident and fun to be around. It is evidence that you have good mental health. It also helps you stay off the radar screen of a bully in search of an easy target.
To many young people, life feels like a serious business. Most young people don’t start out feeling that way. Have you ever observed babies and toddlers? They love to giggle and laugh. They are very easily amused. So at what stage does that disconnect take place when the young ones find less reason to be joyful and more justifications to be serious or depressed or whine or cry? Is it when older siblings, cousins or neighbors tease them in a mean way? Is it when they are the recipient of bullying-type behavior at a mall play area, a park, or a playground?
What behavior constitutes bullying?
What behavior constitutes bullying? The more obvious bullying-type behaviors include hitting, kicking, pushing, and name-calling. The less obvious bullying-type behaviors include rolling of the eyes, frowning and making faces, sarcastic remarks, mean jokes, snubbing, leaving others out of fun activities, unreturned phone calls, gossip and rumors, mean e-mails and notes, and other similar activities.
Expressing love or crying for love
Marianne Williamson’s book, called “A Course of Miracles,” states that every action is either an expression of love or a cry for love. Another way you might think of this quote is that every action is either expressing love and respect for self and others OR it is expressing a cry or demand for more love, more respect, more status, more rank, or more turf. Little ones start out expressing love and soaking up every bit of love that each of us can offer. When those little ones become exposed to repeated bullying-type behavior from other young people, they too start feeling that lack of love and respect. Their fight or flight instinct becomes activated within them. Many of them resort to the FLIGHT instinct by running away, whining, or crying to their parents. Some of them resort to the FIGHT instinct to get revenge in some manner. They might even go so far as to display some bullying-type behavior either to the perpetrator or to other smaller, weaker kids. Every act of bullying is a competition between kids to receive the most love, most respect, and most status, rank, and turf.
Teaching appropriate ways of giving and receiving attention, respect, and approval
So how can we most benefit the young people in our lives so that they can find appropriate ways of giving and receiving attention, respect, and approval? One of the most beneficial gifts that you can give your child and yourself is to foster having a good sense of humor.
For example, when little ones first learn to walk, they often begin by pulling themselves up to a standing position while holding on to furniture or cabinets. Naturally, they do a lot of falling. If that child’s parents panic each and every time a fall happens, whining and crying would soon become a learned behavior. Instead, if the parents state, “You’re okay!” in a pacifying voice or jokingly say “Whoopsy-Daisy!” in a humorous-sounding voice, the child will most likely giggle or smile and good-naturedly pull himself or herself to a standing position once again.
Some preschoolers are the recipient of mean-natured teasing from other kids at a park or play area. Or perhaps the other kids refuse to play with him or her. This can cause hurt feelings. Some children might even run crying to their parents. One particular preschool girl went to a McDonald’s play area one day and found that the only other children there were all older. They refused to play with her. On the way home, she got very quiet and withdrawn. She finally said to her father, “It’s hard to be four.”
So, what is the best way for parents to handle that situation other than giving consoling hugs and kisses? Some parents will be tempted to go in and tell those other kids off for daring to make their child cry. Although that would feel very satisfying to you as the adult and make your child feel vindicated, it is not in his or her best interest to do this. Your child needs practice in how to deal with similar situations with patience and humor.
When children are feeling left out or verbally abused, they need to learn self-mentoring skills to equip them to handle those situations without resorting to tears. This is one of those ideal teachable moments. For a unique way to teach your child to self-mentor when he or she is teased or left out, read story entitled “Balloons can help your preschooler overcome hurt feelings.” (A direct link to this story will be included at the end of this article.)
What we can learn from alpha, beta, and omega wolves
Just like humans, wolves in a wolf pack are constantly in search of having the highest status and rank as possible. The Naturalists who work at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, Tennessee, explain that there are three ranks of wolves. The highest-ranked wolves are the Alpha Wolves (male or female – usually one of each). The next in rank are the male and female wolves known as Beta Wolves. The lowest-ranked wolf is a wolf of either gender known as the Omega Wolf. The Naturalists also called this wolf the Cinderella Wolf. The author of Wolf Park.net used the term Scapegoat Wolf. This author states that the Omega Wolf sometimes has to sleep away from the other wolf pack members. He or she is sometimes excluded from the social activities of howling and greeting. The other wolves might even make a habit out of bullying the Omega Wolf by biting it, picking on it, and driving it away from food.
The Omega Wolf might be able to eventually work itself up in rank or it might choose to eventually leave and become a lone wolf, with the hopes of starting a new pack of its own. In some packs, the Omega Wolf is tolerated by the other pack members and accepted into some group activities. One way this might happen is through the use of humor. The author of Wolf Country.net explains that young wolves exhibit playful behavior of wagging their tails, frolicking, and dancing around as it gets them more of the positive and indulgent attention of the dominant wolves in their pack. The Naturalists at Bays Mountain Park said that the Omega Wolf will sometimes act like the court jester. She will throw sticks in the air, twirl around in a humorous manner, and act like a playful pup to defuse tense situations in the pack.
So even wolves understand that demonstrating a sense of humor (i.e., playful, puppy-like behavior) can keep the Omega Wolf off the radar screen of the higher-ranked wolves trying to maintain their dominant positions. (A link is included below for a short video of the Omega Wolf who lives at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, Tennessee.)
An eight-year-old girl uses humor to get two bullies to stop punching her
Many years ago, when one girl was in the second and third grade, she found recess to be a time of torture more than it was a time of fun. She found herself thrust into that Omega Wolf role as she was the chosen victim for two bully boys. One boy acted as the bully while the other boy acted as the look-out to make certain no teacher was watching. The bully boy would punch her in the stomach almost on a daily basis. The girl apparently made the ideal victim as she would oblige them by crying each and every time. Her crying made them feel puffed-up and powerful like a fully-inflated balloon. Her tears probably gave them an adrenaline rush feeling. They might even have found that feeling to be quite addictive.
Sadly, the playground was so large that no teacher ever saw. The girl told on the boys. The boys declared their innocence. The teachers didn’t know who to believe. Their only suggestion was that she should always play near where the teachers sat relaxing and chatting. She declined such a boring option; therefore, the bully dance by the two boys and her reactionary victim dance continued.
The second half of her third-grade year, she went to her older brother for advice. In so many words, he told her that the only way she could get them to stop picking on her was to stop giving them their fix of making her cry. No matter how much it hurt, she had to force herself NOT to cry. As if that wasn’t hard enough, she needed to giggle like the punch tickled. This took an incredible amount of courage; however, she was so tired of being victimized that she felt it was worth trying.
She started by forcing herself not to cry. Seeing their disappointment at her lack of tears gave her hope that her brother was right. She was further encouraged that the next punch didn’t hurt nearly as much as before. Perhaps she was feeling more relaxed, so there was less impact or resistance. Or perhaps he didn’t punch her nearly as hard. Maybe it was a combination of those two actions. In any case, since that bully was deprived of the that adrenaline rush feeling from the day before, it seemed to take some of the oomph out of his punch. By the third day, the girl managed to force herself to giggle like the punch tickled. Seeing the shocked and bemused looks on their faces made her giggle for real. The following day, the bully barely tapped her. Again, she giggled. The two boys never bothered her again. She was so excited to be bully-free.
Her brother cautioned her to be very careful about the way in which she laughed. If she gave those two bullies the slightest impression that she was laughing at or making fun of them, it would have provoked them into further and harsher acts of violence. Instead, she needed to be certain that her giggling was playful and charming. She could even pretend that they had told her a funny joke or they were trying to tickle her. The main thing is that she no longer was playing the role of being a Drama Queen; therefore, they no longer felt it worthwhile to try to inflict their bullying-type behavior on her.
Who was that girl? That actually happened to the author when she attended Park Road School in Pittsford, New York back in the 1960s.
Every act of bullying is a trilogy: a victim, a bully, and location
On 8-10-2009, a CSI: NY show aired where one of the main characters, Mac Taylor, stated that every crime is a trilogy: victim, suspect, and location. Similarly, in the case of bullies, every act of bullying would also be considered a trilogy: a victim, a bully, and location. So if the victim no longer dances that victim dance by whining, crying, running away, or getting upset, it takes all the oomph out of the bullying-type activity the bully was planning to perpetrate. If he or she no longer can get that adrenaline rush feeling of upsetting your child, the bully is going to feel so flat and deflated and bored, that he or she will set his sights on some other victim other than your child. In that case, perhaps your child can offer that other child support and advice. Then that child will no longer be the ideal victim either.
The benefits of displaying a positive attitude, gratitude, and a sense of humor
You might think of all bully situations through the viewpoint of this little verse created for this article. You might even want to teach your child this short poem:
Being a Drama King or Queen
Puts you on a Bully’s Radar Screen.
Be playful, joyful, laugh, and smile
Makes you look and feel worthwhile.
Whether or not you are a Christian, you might benefit from reading these words of wisdom from the King James Version of the Bible to your child about being joyful.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
In other words, do what Oprah often states. “Have that attitude of gratitude.” Perhaps once a week or twice a week at dinner, have each family member describe one to three things they are grateful for. The more you can get your child to look on the positive side of life, the happier and healthier your child will be.
What we can learn from the past history of Norman Cousins
Norman Cousins knew first-hand the benefit of having a sense of humor. In 1979, he wrote the book entitled Anatomy Of An Illness as Perceived by the Patient. He was suffering from a terminal illness. Combined with massive doses of Vitamin C, he watched Marx Brother movies and Candid Camera shows, finding multiple reasons to laugh. Prolonged sessions of laughter gave him endorphins and literally numbed the pain he was feeling for up to two hours at a time. When the pain returned, he would watch more funny movies. He lived for another 26 years. Naturally, there is no way to prove that laughter was the main reason that his life was prolonged, but many of his readers felt that having a strong sense of humor helped to heal him.
Since that time, scientists have conducted several studies. The author of Holistic Online.com shares that it is proven that “laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.”
How do you acquire a sense of humor?
So how do you help your child to acquire a good sense of humor? Like Norman Cousins, you can watch funny movies and sitcoms together. You could watch America’s Funniest Videos. You could even try to create funny videos of your own and post them on YouTube. You could create a MySpace page and fill them with links to funny videos and child-appropriate jokes you have found. You and your child could take turns reading jokes to each other out of joke books and off the internet. You can tell funny anecdotes of things of entertaining things you observed in your life and in the lives of others. Help your child to learn some of these funny stories so that he or she can repeat them in an entertaining manner. You could join a Laughter Club or start one of your own. You could try Laughter Yoga. (See demonstration video in the Resource section.) You and your child could stand in front of a mirror and practice making funny faces and sound effects to make each other laugh. Helping your child to see the zany side of life will be one of the best lessons you can teach him or her.
Warning: Not everyone has the same sense of humor
Your child needs to be aware that not everybody has the same sense of humor. What some people find funny, other people might find offensive. So your child needs to be aware that jokes that put other people or races or cultures down in some way can be very hurtful to others. Therefore, teach your child what kind of jokes are appropriate to tell and what jokes are not considered to be politically correct.
Sometimes, young people will issue a put-down to another; however, they attempt to disguise or camouflage it with the qualification, “I was just joking.” More often than not, the hurtful remark was intentional. Their goal is to be hurtful and to gain power over the other person. Stating afterward that it was just a joke was actually a lie. Make certain your child learns that it is not okay to say mean things to others and get away with it just by saying, “I was only teasing” or “I was just joking around.”
To read about ways to use a good sense of humor to counter put-downs, please click on the link for “Humorous retorts to put-downs” at the end of this article.
Role-play as a family to help your child gain skills in dealing with bullies
As a family, do some role-playing. Practice all these various techniques together until they come naturally to your child. Then when a bully comes along and does his or her bully dance of doing or saying something hurtful, he or she is expecting your child to reflexively do the victim dance by crying or whining or showing how upset the bullying made him or her feel. So in those brief seconds between the provoking action of the bully and the reactionary response from your child, one of those techniques will come to mind. As your child utilizes one or more of these techniques in a calm and confident fashion, the bully will realize that he or she lacks the power to successfully victimize your child. Most likely, the bully will not approach your child again.
A fun activity for parent and child
To further reinforce the importance of using good posture, play these two songs about bullies. Learn the songs and sing them together. Practice the skills indicated in the songs to make your child much more bully-proof. Here’s the links:
1. Click this link for “Anti-Bullying song for kids #1: My Bully Buster Song” on rootshed.com
2. Click this link for Another Bully Buster Song on YouTube. (Song is embedded within this article.)
Now that your child knows that smiling and displaying a good sense of humor can help him or her achieve a happier life now and in the long run, it may feel like a worthier activity to practice and perfect.
Articles relevant to this article:
1. For a unique way to teach your child to self-mentor when he or she is teased or left out, read story entitled “Balloons can help your preschooler overcome hurt feelings.”
2. Watch video called “Bully Beta Wolves Pick on Cinderella Omega Wolf at Bays Mountain Park”: Watch the bully Beta Wolves pick on the poor Cinderella Omega Wolf. Notice she attempts to mark some territory for herself. Will they let her keep it? Video taken on 6-10-2009 at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, TN.
3. To read about ways to use a good sense of humor to counter put-downs, please read “Humorous retorts to put-downs.”
4. How we perceive a bully makes a difference
Please note: This article was originally posted in 2009 under the former publishing tool. When it was discovered that it had some missing links and videos, etc., I edited it and re-published it as you see above.
Return to Hub page for “Avoid Bullying with these 12 tips”
- Wolf Country.net – The Wolf Pack
- Wolf Park.org – Frequently Asked Questions About Wolves
- Bio of Norman Cousins on Wikipedia
- Watch Anatomy of an Illness (1984)
- Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter
- YouTube Movie called Benefits of Laughter Yoga with John Cleese
- Discover Laughter Yoga and Laughter Clubs
See Debbie Dunn’s articles on | School Conflict Resolution | K-8 Classroom Activities | Women’s Health | Storytelling Website
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