Story Telling – What Exactly Are We Teaching Our Kids?
If there’s one thing with which humans can universally connect, it’s story telling. Everyone loves a good story. Especially a story that triggers emotions, such as excitement, fear, sorrow, or joy. A good story will never go out of style. But what exactly are we teaching our kids?
Children are particularly enthralled with stories. Stories capture the imagination and allow children to experience things they’ve never experienced before. Stories connect them with the cause-and-effect nature of the world. Stories humanize the plight of others, and help children recognize the inherent joy of good triumphing over evil.
Through story telling, we are teaching our kids to empathise with others, to appreciate long term benefit over short term gratification, to recognize the consequences of their actions and inactions, to focus on helping others who are vulnerable, to see the possibilities in a situation rather than the challenges, and to maintain the courage to keep persisting with their dreams even when life feels difficult.
These crucial skills are core aspects of emotional intelligence, which is as strong a predictor of future wellbeing and happiness than academic performance or “IQ”.
Of course, story telling isn’t just the stuff in books. Story telling includes the stories that our children concoct through their experience and observation. The way they see others respond to challenges, handle feelings, deal with conflict, and cope with stress become a template from which to create a story. For example:
There’s the story of the traffic jam, when Aunt Mary was swearing and honking the horn at other drivers.
There’s the story of their parents’ argument, after which dad yelled at everyone and mum drank wine.
There’s the story of their older brother being teased at school for missing a game-winning shot, and seeing him commit to improving by practicing baskball drills every afternoon.
The real-world experiences that lead to these created stories are just as powerful, if not more powerful, than those we read to our children. We can instruct them endlessly on the importance of persistence or confidence; but unless we also show these traits through our example, the lesson may never take hold.
The characteristics that we want our children to hold are precisely those that we must embody ourselves. Our actions create stories for our children, and we must take care to only repeat those stories that we want our children to remember.
Tags: gentle parenting, parenting advice, story telling, teaching kids, toddlers