One part of the role we have as parents is to discipline our children. This has become a very complicated subject in recent decades. The Bible makes it very simple, Proverbs 13:24. However, stories are told of parents who cruelly and wickedly misuse this verse and subsequently get their kids taken away by CPS.
For parents who actually love their kids and see the need they have for their parents to appropriately discipline them, I encourage you to consider adding storytelling to your Disciplinarian Role Kit. Other common tools in the DRK are grounding, taking prized possessions away, time out, etc. and these work very well, especially in a culture overwhelmed with stuff. What if there is a way to help your kids see further down the path to where their decisions are taking them? And what if you don’t have time or the opportunity to visit a prison or a morgue? Utilizing storytelling to give them a proper vantage point can be a very cost and time effective approach.
I know I am not an authority on the subject, I only know what works for my kids. They respond very well to story, so when I can use it, I do. For example, this morning one of my kids woke up very grumpy and when my wife tried to convince him to come out and get ready for the day, he growled at her and refused. We’ve all felt like that before, but I couldn’t let him treat her that way. So I looked at him sternly and told him he doesn’t get to act that way toward his mom.
It’s at this point that I feel I need to bring in some context. It is of great importance to me that my kids feel safe and are confident in our home. It is not a place of fear, but of love, fun, and adventure. Yes, at appropriate times and levels that love gets fierce, but it is never to demean or destroy them as a person. Because of that, my kids trust me. And at times like the one this morning, all I had to do was give him a look and a few words of correction. He immediately got out of bed, started getting ready, and apologized to his mom.
When my son came back in the room, he climbed up on my lap. I wanted to make sure he understood what was appropriate behavior so I told him a story about a bear:
There once was a bear who lived in a forest. Bear was known as one who liked his sleep. And this morning, it took the whole forest to wake him up. When they finally did, it turned out he was wearing his grumpy pants and he growled at everyone. They all scattered for a moment but eventually came back because Bear just had to get out of bed and get started with the day. They encouraged him to change his pants from grumpy to soft and cuddly. All the forest creatures just loved the hugs they’d get from Bear. They needed one from him so they could start their own day.
At least that was as close as I can remember. I’m sure there’s probably some kind of problem with this story, but for my son, when I told of how the bear changed his pants, he wanted me to say, “Bear ripped them off and threw them away.” It’s very likely that we won’t be seeing a grumpy boy in the morning anytime soon.
It doesn’t take long to tell a story, and when you do, you get to watch them think and soak it in. This can be an effective over-the-long-haul approach that you can use along with your other DRK tools. If you ever need to, you can bring up your story again as a warning like I can with mine, “Now don’t act like Bear with his grumpy pants on.” Just beware of the times when you wake up grumpy. Kids can be some of the best first responders, “You sound like Bear with his grumpy pants on, Dad.” Yes, at times my kids use my stories against me, but it actually makes me even more proud of them when they do.
I try to incorporate storytelling in many of the teaching moments for my kids. I have found that they learn whatever it is I’m trying to teach them in what seems to be a deeper way. The more complete the story, the more completely they remember and connect with it. If I just slap one together, it won’t connect with anybody, mainly because it didn’t connect with me and I don’t fake interest very well.
When disciplining your child, know that storytelling can be an option. Interactive storytelling, when you mix the story with a question/answer time, is a creative way to let them have ownership over what they need. I’ll try to get into this later, right after I fulfill a request from my wife by writing a chapter titled: Survival by Storytelling- Escaping the Grand Canyon.