Path to Story, Chapter 33: Revenge of the Story

I started writing this blog with no agenda except for fun for parents and their kids. From morning times to family road trips, I wanted to give families an idea of how to enjoy life together, but now it’s about to get ‘real’. What happens when your kids start to annoy you beyond anyone’s endurance? When, “Mom-mom-mom-mom-mom” becomes an alarm clock-like water torture?

The other night, my wife and I attempted to have a conversation at the dinner table. As the first words escaped my wife’s lips, one of our adorable children thought it a perfect time to voice a request. Maybe it was because it was the first time we had seen each other that day and really hadn’t gotten a chance to talk, maybe it was the way my child said, “Mom” every half second, maybe it was my blood pressure, maybe- I think you get the point, I had to make it stop before any facial tic set in. It was then that I had an idea: Give them a taste through story of what they are doing before mommy and daddy have to get sent to the looney-bin.

Meet Robbie the Robot! I made up this character with an annoying robot voice that would say the same thing over and over:

“I am Robbie Robot and I clap like this. I am Robbie Robot and I still clap like this.”

He’d say that till his batteries ran out. Then a guy would come and replace them which started Robbie up again. Now you may be asking yourself, “How is this any better?” Well if you heard my kids’ reaction, you’d get it. After a few rounds with Robbie, I introduced a guy who couldn’t take it anymore. I had him remove the batteries and hide them far away. My kids cheered, till a lightning storm came which struck Robbie and started him up again.

They got the point and let my wife and I talk. Yes, I could’ve just yelled at them, and I also know the Bible says ‘Vengeance is the Lord’s’, Romans 12:19, but sometimes giving them a taste of their own medicine is just what the doctor ordered. Besides, having a conversation after a victory like that is much easier than attempting one right after you’ve lost your cool.

Most parents know kids need to learn what appropriate behavior is and that the majority of those lessons aren’t intuitive. May this chapter reveal a more peaceful approach to engage our precious little children as they develop a greater understanding of how annoying they can be. Yelling for the most part only teaches fear, and it has its place in emergencies, but story has a way to help kids understand the ‘why’.

Next time your kids knowingly or unknowingly drive you to the brink, consider story, let it guide you to safer shores. For whenever parents are in trouble, and where ever children push too far, Robbie the Robot is ready to rescue! He will always still clap like this…

Path to Story, Chapter 28: Mix It Up

If you are running out of ideas for your stories, and you need to be reminded of all the possibilities storytelling provides, or if you want to challenge yourself to see if you can handle multiple characters and their voices, try mixing it up.

Today I mixed up a lot of characters my kids love in a story during lunch. Sometimes it isn’t really that important for the story to make any sense, leave that for the pro’s. My aim was just plain fun.

Hulk, Yoda, C-3PO, R2D2, and Shifu were the cast. It got really silly between Hulk and Yoda, because Hulk kept referring to Yoda as Baby Hulk, and kept laughing every time Yoda tried to say, “A baby Hulk I am not!” Hulk would respond, “But you green! Baby Hulk talk funny!”

At first, I tried to work with the Star Wars universe, and had the Emperor show up and scare everyone with lightning, but “Hulk smash!” sent him flying. Then, because of such a crazy cast, I couldn’t get the idea of a carnival out of my head, so… C-3PO and R2 picked up on strange radio transmissions and found out about an evil clown syndicate attempting to take over the world with a golden cotton candy machine that had mind controlling powers. How does it control minds? An ingredient in the candy, “bad sugar”, stimulates the brain to be hypnotized by a certain frequency employed by the leader through a loudspeaker. Are there gigantic holes in this story? Absolutely. For fun stories, sometimes it’s good to not take yourself so seriously.

It was ridiculously hilarious even to me to picture them all together. Shifu and Yoda made a team as they infiltrated the carnival to get more intel on the evil clown syndicate. Shifu got picked up by a little girl because she thought he was a cute prize from the carnival. Upon seeing Yoda however, the little girl screamed dropped Shifu and ran. Meanwhile, C-3PO kept trying to advise Hulk, much like he tried with Chewie once. I actually didn’t get much farther than that because lunch was done. We had too much fun with Hulk and Yoda interacting to pay mind to much else. Boba Fett and Batman showed up for a brief cameo and we were done. So I incorporated chapters, one for lunch and one for dinner.

During dinner, I only had to say something about Hulk and Yoda and my kids cheered, got right to their seats, and were quiet. The power of story is unparalleled.

Speaking of power, I want to eventually talk about endings, but I’ll save that for a future post. I already tried that a little in this one but had to edit it. I try to limit these to one main idea at a time so as to make it easier to follow.

Mixing up a story keeps everything fresh, like Star Wars & Cinderella in Chapter 9. It also breaks down any limits to imagination, much like the movie, “Toy Story” that used the narrative of many different toys to tell a new one. So go ahead and mix it up. Set your kids’ imagination free!

A Path to Story, Ch. 10: Storytelling VS. Spank&yelling

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.