Nervous Laughter In Kids May Be Just That – Nervousness

shutterstock_149321516__1382124165_142.196.156.251I had a childhood friend who would burst out laughing whenever she got in trouble. This was really bad news for her in the classroom, but even worse at home. She spent a lot of time in her room. I remember saying “stop laughing!” It used to make me really anxious because I knew she would be getting in trouble. She couldn’t seem to stop herself from this behavior.  I was reminded of this by a post I saw on a Reddit parenting forum today.

A 35-year-old woman made a post to alert parents to this behavior, because it was something that plagued her as a child:

I’m 35 now and as long as I can remember, my first reaction when things get real is to smile. The worse the situation, the more broad of a grin I take on and even get to the point where I’ll chuckle or outright laugh. It’s a nervous reaction and how I’ve always dealt with getting into trouble or being in a messed up position.

Because no one knew this, parents and figureheads constantly thought that I was “Taking Pleasure” or thought that what was going on was “funny” and it would usually only make them all the more upset in thinking that I wasn’t taking the situation seriously. This would only make me more nervous and would typically lead me to getting into more trouble or getting smacked around.

I eventually found a way to stop smiling. By chewing the insides of my cheeks as hard as I could while I’d be getting yelled at. I’ve had scars from the biting since I was a child because I’d rather experience the pain inside my mouth than get in more trouble or smacked.

I don’t know that I ever would have even remembered my friend did that had I not read this. Many readers chimed in to say that they either did the same thing as a child, or had children that exhibited this behavior. Some parents made the connection that children would smile and laugh at them when they were fighting with their spouses at what they thought was an attempt to make them “feel better:”

My wife and I got into a huge fight my son witnessed. It got to the point of tears and screaming, all while he had a confused look on his face. He then ran up to me, threw his arms up, and smiled. I immediately realized that he was trying to make mommy and daddy all better. I was taken back to seeing my parents fight all the time, going toe-to-toe, while I felt scared and helpless, and taking all the responsibility for their unhappiness on my shoulders. Looking at my little boy feeling those very same feelings absolutely broke my heart, and I lost it.

Clearly this isn’t scientific research or anything – it’s a Reddit forum. But the number of people who could sympathize with the situation was pretty telling. I think we can all sympathize with laughing at the wrong time at one point or another in our lives. This is a good reminder that as parents it’s a good idea to step back and try to analyze where behavior is coming from before we allow ourselves to get too frustrated or annoyed.

(photo: bikeriderlondon/ Shutterstock)

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  • Rachel Sea

    I totally did that when I was a kid, it was a stress reaction, and I couldn’t help it. The insides of my cheeks have a long ridge of scar tissue from biting them to stop from smiling, or laughing.

  • ktbay

    To this day I am the worst liar. I smile, and start to giggle. It’s a curse! I was always caught when I was being bad. My husband loves it, and to be honest, I hope it’s a trait I can pass on to my own kids.

  • Destiny Greenfield

    I did this. I hated it. It got me into trouble and I didnt think anything was funny but I just couldnt help it. It was strange and unintentional. My son does it a little bit now, but not as much as I did. I rarely do it anymore, but I remember doing it very often as a kid.

  • Erin

    I used to do that as a kid, but don’t anymore. Now I’m a teacher, and when I was giving a kid a talking-to in the hallway the other day, I asked him why he wasn’t looking me in the eye. He said if he did, he’d laugh. Fair enough, man. I’ve been there.

  • DeanaCal

    I am so glad that I figured this out about my daughter a few years ago. She’s 12 now, amd smiles a big toothy smile when she’s really upset. We’ve talked about how she can’t help it , and that other people might not understand. I think she’s glad that at least when she’s with me she doesn’t have to bite her cheeks or anything and she can just be who she is.

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  • F

    I felt abused as a child because I smile nervously, and the authority figures in my life felt it was necessary to make me “take it seriously” or “quit laughing.” I wasn’t. It was a reaction I can’t help. Anybody who has actually PAID ATTENTION when I cried knows my expression is similar to a smile. Thinking about this makes me want to go hit everybody who ever hit me for “smiling.” I don’t call it spanking, it’s hitting.