What is the best way to teach a principle or idea? What do you remember best? Nonfiction or fiction? What sticks with you? Have you noticed that the best talks or sermons usually start or at least have a story in them? Then the principles are built around the story. Not only are they more impactful in relaying a message but they tend to stick with you longer. You might not remember much else about the talk but you will remember the story.
Jesus, the master teacher, taught in Parables
Who else taught using stories that we cannot help but remember today? Are Christ’s stories not filled with messages and layers that can teach a multiplicity of lessons? The story of the Ten Lepers is usually used to teach gratitude but does it not also show His love and mercy, that even if we are not perfect we can still be healed? The story of the Samaritan teaches neighborly love on a level that is hard to see today that can really make an impact on the mind and heart.
Children learn character through stories
In Sarah MacKenzie‘s book, The Read-Aloud Family, she talks about using characters and instances from books to point out to her children what they might want to stop doing or start doing. They have all heard the story and all you have to say is “Don’t be a thwap” and her children all knew the story and the lesson of not being sneaky. When we share stories we are able to lean on them to bring messages home.
We want to teach patience, perseverance, and love to our children. There are many curriculum on character building, but when wanting to teach a character trait or idea, definitions only get so far. Children need an example showing them. Examples in stories are relatable and help children to see and understand better. They see what it looks like and how they might live out that principle, and why.
Stories show children the whole view
The beauty of stories is that you get to see from the outside the whole picture. You aren’t actually in the trenches and get to see the before, during, and after. Children get to see that ordinary children like themselves can set off on their own adventure. That they are not so different from the ones in stories. Children can often see into the thoughts and reasoning as to why the child did what she did and can understand her better. They can hear the character pull on different strengths or experiences to get him through trials. Then when all is over and everyone is celebrating, children can see and feel the reward of going through the trials. Stories allow children to know that even if it is hard, they can do it. Stories allow children to know how and why they might want to face challenges.
Stories inspire and help children want to be like heroes
Children absorb everything they see, read, and hear, and we need to be sure that they are getting a steady diet of what is good, beautiful, and wholesome. If we want them to be courageous or hard-working, then they need to see it, what it looks and feels like. We as parents tend to fall short pretty often in the category of being perfect examples. There was only one and we should lean on His story as much as possible. But another way for children to learn character is through stories of heroes becoming heroes and what makes them so.
Read stories of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other great leaders from history. But also be sure to read great fairy tales and stories of knights fighting dragons. G. .K Chesterton has been coined with saying “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” So let us feel our children’s hearts and mind with the tools they will need to slay their dragons.
Stories touch the heart
Probably the most important reason for stories in building character in children is that it reaches the heart in a way that nothing else can. No lecture from a parent will ever make the impact of a well-placed story. The story of the Professor in Little Men in dealing with Nat’s lying pulls at your heartstrings and definitely leaves an impression.
The Christmas Oranges story puts children in a situation most will never find themselves in. That is another great reason for stories because you can’t put them in an orphanage to teach them a lesson. But this way touches their heart to inspire them to be generous.
Even the gentle Inuit parents use stories in how they parent their children. Stories like the ocean is a monster that will drag you down that teaches to stay away from the water. To teach them to keep their hats on they teach a story about the northern lights. These stories not only teach in a loving and gentle way but touch children’s hearts and help them want to be better.
Use stories to teach your children character. They will remember them better and have a bigger impact on their hearts and minds. Give them tools to become their own heroes. Fill their hearts with love and empower them.
One simple next action step for you to take: The next time you are reading a story with your children, stop and point out one thing that the character did that showed a kind of trait you want to instill in them. That’s it. It can be just one sentence.