Last weekend the boys were having a day where they were both in moods that were unwilling to help me with chores and other simple requests.
They were also being particularly fussy with one another – not considering the others’ needs and refusing to lend a hand where it was needed.
This went on for some time with me faithfully correcting and disciplining, but the message just wasn’t getting across. I was starting to feel impatient and frustrated.
This is usually a good time to SWITCH UP MY METHODS.
Lately one of my favorite ways to reach my kids’ hearts is through telling a story.
Because stories make us think and feel things. Stories STICK IN OUR HEADS.
Think about the sermon you heard on Sunday at church – chances are you remember the illustration your pastor used to drive a point home.
Consider Jesus – there is a reason why he used parables and stories that used memorable images and lessons to teach people about the Kingdom.
The same is true whenever I start a sentence with, “Once upon a time…”
So on that day when lunchtime came and we were all sitting around the table, instead of feeling defeated by the morning, I decided to tell a story with the intent of teaching about having a servant’s heart.
Once upon a time there were 2 little boys at the grocery store with their mama. While they were there, a kind worker offered to give each of the boys a balloon. He even asked them what color balloons they wanted! One got a red balloon and the other got a blue balloon. The boys were so happy! After they were done grocery shopping and they were climbing into the car, suddenly – POP! One of the boys’ balloons popped into a hundred tiny pieces! He was devastated and immediately began to cry. The other boy glanced over and saw how upset his brother was. Then, very slowly, he looked at his own balloon and carefully handed it to his brother.
At the end of this little story I asked the boys (who were totally into it), “Who is choosing to SERVE?” and “How do you think the little boy felt when his brother gave him the balloon?”
This led to some good dialogue about what being a servant looks like. We had already been memorizing Matthew 20:28 as a family, so it tied in quite nicely.
The boys really liked my first story, so I shared another one!
Once upon a time there were 2 brothers and one brother was outside playing a game of football. The other brother was playing on the porch with his trucks and cars. Suddenly the brother who was outside fell and got a horrible injury on his leg! He was bleeding everywhere! He limped on to the porch with tears running down his cheeks and blood pouring down his leg. He said, “Brother! Could you please get me a bandaid from the bathroom closet?” But the brother kept on playing with his trucks and cars. He did not even look up.
I asked, “What would have been the loving and servant-hearted thing to do in this story?”
At this point, I think one of the boys commented that the mom was probably going to be upset about the blood stains on the porch. Obviously my boys know about their mama’s PRIORITIES. 🙂
ANYWAY, it ended up being a great conversation and one that really redirected their hearts.
What if you don’t feel creative enough to come up with a story for your kids?
Listen – you don’t have to be C.S. Lewis to spin a good tale.
Here are a few easy tips on how to use story-telling in your parenting…
- Pick a big picture theme – the stories above are reflective of my heart to remind my kids about what a servant-heart looks like. But you could pick anything you feel would be a timely lesson for your children. I have shared stories about tantrums at the toy store (self-control), fussy eaters (table manners), how to behave when visiting someone else’s house, and how to be kind to the other kids at school.
- Think about situations that you and your children have actually experienced – then use them as the framework for your story. The balloon experience above was actually a true story, except that one brother did not share his balloon and the other brother cried for about 15 hours. I did not want to force one child to give his balloon away at the time, but later I did want to use the story to help him have eyes to see an opportunity that could have met a need.
- Add a little action or exaggeration. Blood, vomit, trouble… These elements will keep your listeners hooked. And if I am sharing a story about a tantrum, I always go a little over the top acting it out – just so my boys see how ridiculous a tantrum looks.
- Keep it short. Your kids are little and therefore their attention spans are little. Don’t go on and on. Get to the point.
- Tell 2 stories – One where the characters respond favorably and one where a character makes a mistake. This encourages the listeners to discern a problem and then figure out how to solve it in a way that brings glory to God (a technique Jesus often used when he shared a parable).
- Timing is everything – don’t try to tell a story about self-control to your kids while they are rolling around on the floor in front of the candy display at CVS. Wait until you are sharing a meal or snuggling in bed at night and their hearts are ready to receive.
Try incorporating story-telling into your parenting today and then let me know how it goes! I would love to hear what stories you come up with.
Be careful, though. You might end up with some blood on your porch. 🙂