While helping teach a Sunday school class for preschoolers, I asked the group of kids a participation question:
“What does a frog say?”
Easy, right? I was expecting “Ribbit, Ribbit.”
Instead, when I called on a little boy in the front row, he responded with a deep, croaking: “RrrrrrrroooooooOOOOOOOOAGH!”
It was so unexpected, and so remarkably accurate, that my co-teacher and I cracked up laughing.
…and then the little boy burst into tears.
I had forgotten that not all children are used to be laughed at.
My children certainly are.
Whenever they say something cute or profound or even remotely funny, I don’t hesitate to giggle. (And, half the time, one of them will ask, “Can you share that on Facebook now?” 😉 )
I completely understand WHY a child would cry, if adults are laughing and it gets interpreted as making fun of him. But that’s where the adults should say something like:
“I’m sorry that hurt your feelings. But we’re actually impressed with your frog noise! It was so good that it made me laugh!”
Children simply need time and experience to learn how to tell the difference between friendly laughter and malicious mocking.
What I don’t understand is how a person might grow all the way into adulthood and still be so sensitive that they can’t tolerate laughter about many, many things.
Now, I think it’s important to mention that literally everyone thinks they have a sense of humor… (I mean, can you remember the last time someone said, “I’m not much of a ‘laughter’ person”?)
People never come right out and admit they are extremely easily offended. So, you have to watch for certain phrases:
“I have a sense of humor, but…”
“Not everybody will get it…”
These are tell-tale indications that the person who is speaking blames you for your response (laughing), instead of blaming the crying person for misunderstanding.
They may not be crying over a frog noise, but there are many people who blame others for “hurting” them.
However, it’s important to remember when someone is laughing, there are only two options:
- That person is an evil, bully/jerk who WANTS to hurt others. OR
- That person is NOT an evil bully/jerk who DOES NOT want to hurt others.
If the person isn’t an evil bully-jerk, then your hurt feelings are lying to you. They’re telling you to cry, even though there’s nothing to cry about.
You’re missing the opportunity to be joyful and to laugh along with them, simply because you are misinterpreting the motivation behind it.
And THAT is why I laugh at my children whenever I get the chance.
I want them to know that laughing isn’t something only bully-jerks do.
Laughing (and even teasing!) are things people do when they love you.
At least, that’s how it works in this family.
When you say a word wrong, we laugh.
When you trip and fall down, we laugh.
When you make a surprisingly realistic frog noise and catch us off guard, we laugh.
As a result, our home is filled with the sounds of giggling from both adults and children who are secure enough to laugh at themselves.
If someone is trying to hurt your feelings, then go ahead and be offended by their ugly heart attitude.
But, if someone is laughing, join them! There are enough people crying about things.