Storytelling is as old as the hills and as broad as the oceans. Storytelling can take anything from a minute to an hour. So what is so special about storytelling and how can we use it to connect to our children?
So why do we even use stories? Compare these two –
1) When I was going to work this morning I tripped coming out of the house and fell and hurt my foot.
2) It was a chilly April morning and I woke up to the surprise of white covering everything outside. It had snowed! I knew as soon as I saw it that it would take me longer to get to work so I rushed my breakfast and headed out to scrape the car clear of snow. As I was turning to lock the door I lost my footing on the snow on the doorstep and slipped. In what was a bit like a comedy, slow-motion moment I seemed to tumble for ages and hit the ground flat on my back staring up to the sky. I did a quick body check before laughing and getting up. I looked around the street quickly hoping no-one had seen my spectacular fall and then I hobbled to my car.
Which one is going to stick in your mind? I would hope the second one. The first one is very short, factual and to the point. The second gives more detail about why the fall happened. It has more atmosphere. For the reader it creates a visual picture from the very beginning of waking up to snow all around and ending up with the picture of someone falling off the step. It is altogether more memorable than the first because the person listening can make the pictures in their head as the person is telling the story.
So how can that help us to connect more effectively with our children?
We start at a very young age with nursery rhymes. Children listen to the tone of your voice and eventually sing along with you. We learn rhythm, rhyme, mimicking and the storytelling. We learn about some truths of the world through nursery rhyme METAPHORS. A metaphor story is one that talks to your emotions and allows you to feel the story in your body – children love them!
Think about Disney films – they are rife with metaphors. Tales where good wins over evil but only after a battle between the two.
Consider these two choices and decide which would work best and have the most lasting impact on a child-
1) Tell a child not to be mean to people who are ugly and tell them to get to know the person instead.
2) Watch Beauty and the Beast then talk about the meaning behind it.
Beauty and the Beast encourages us to look past the outside image we see and look into the core of a person for their beauty. Beauty is more than skin deep. We can open up the story further to talk about how judging people on how they look without getting to know them is narrow minded and unfair leading us to miss out on lovely people. The effect of other people’s judgements on people is seen in how The Beast hides himself away in fear of hearing other people’s cruel comments about his looks.
Most people have heard Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and The Hare – it is a METAPHOR for ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Aesop is believed to have lived between 620 – 650 BC and wrote dozens of fables with a moral to learn. The fables are short and memorable and engage children’s minds and imaginations.
Better still is that METAPHORS help us talk about the PROBLEM (for Beauty and the Beast – judging people) without talking about the PROBLEM! Who ever really wants to talk about the PROBLEM?
Even better yet – these fables, films and stories get through to our unconscious mind without having to have it all spelled out to us in detail because, for most people, they talk to our emotions on a more powerful level.
This leads me to share another highly effective form of storytelling – songs! The tunes are catchy. The lyrics drill themselves into your mind so that even ten years later you still know all the words to a song that was in the top ten. There are not many people who haven’t heard the song ‘Let it go’ from Frozen and I feel sure we will be singing it for many years to come! I haven’t seen the film yet I know the song and understand the metaphor of the storyline from the song.
Let’s look at Radio WWWWWH – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? All stories have at least two or three of these present depending on what the message is we are trying to get across. Start with the end in mind and weave a story to fit the outcome or learning you want to share with your child.
Anyone can make up a story (yes you can!). The story can be about you or someone you know or a complete stranger. Depending on the end result you want you may want to distance yourself from the story and make it about someone you heard about. You can even pinch stories from other people (think Facebook). Great story starters are –
When I was a child…
I remember when …
I have a friend who ….
Storytelling – it started with word of mouth, then word of mouth and pictures and now we try to squeeze stories into 140 characters for Tweets (that’s so they can be sent by SMS by the way). Indeed, I think that in recent years storytelling has exploded with the growth of television, cinema and social media. Facebook – personal, political, humour; LinkedIn – business; Blogs – cover all sorts of topics and usually written by people with a passion for something; Vlogs – video blogs; YouTube and so on. The list is constantly evolving as technology moves forward and we can choose the format that suits us best – or avoid social media altogether as we sit together and tell each other stories!
Best of all we can share stories with our children and create memories to share with them.
If you are interested in learning more about the power of using stories/metaphors to connect with your child and would like additional advice and support contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07851447612.