Practical Parenting: The Art and Importance of Story-Telling for Childhood Development

Last night, as I put my son to bed, we had story time. While lately it seems that I have been lazy and would put an audio book on to appease my children’s curiosity, last night was different. I needed to align with my son; but even more importantly, I needed him to align with his inner strength.

Values are imparted through the stories we share, and story telling is an important art. This is especially for the development of a healthy psyche. By telling children stories, we ignite their mind to imagine the places they hear about. We teach them to understand undercurrents of a characters thought process. We further show them ways to problem solve through the eyes of a removed stranger; all of these are important elements for healthy psychological growth. They form a solid foundation from which the child can begin to make their own decisions, engage with the outside world, and begin molding it to fit their dreams.

The tenants of psychoanalysis and Carl Jung’s analytical psychology has long studied the effects symbolism has on the development of a healthy psyche. Freud’s Oedipus Complex, Jung’s theory of archetypes, and the idea of a storehouse of long repressed symbolism found deeply seated within the collective unconscious all point to the notion that the psyche develops through the use of symbolism to make sense of its life long journey. While these were considered radical ideas in the early 20th century, with the advent of collective (social) media experiences and hive type technology, the symbolism our psyche grasps onto in a collective manner is now more of a mainstream concept rather than what was once thought of as metaphysical pseudoscience. While I was not there to analyze my son that evening, I was there to introduce him to the symbolism present within the psyche as a means to give him the psychological armor needed to see himself in a heroic light. By doing so, it was my hope that he will develop a healthy sense of self mastery during his fifth year of life.

Last night, I told my five year old the story of Billy Bear and the Three Geese. I don’t know where the story came from, but in the end, we muddled our way through it, both helping each other out when we got stuck. Well to be honest, him helping me out when I got stuck for content. Its themes focused on flights of fancy, aspirations, and the capacity to ask friends for help. The nice thing was, when I got stuck, my son Billy just helped me out with how the story should go. While the overall moral of the story was to make sure that he aimed high and chased his dreams with all his passion, for the most part, the largest aspect of growth I saw from this experiment was to see my youngest son assume responsibility for and begin to master the story line we created together. Wow, how the smallest things can show you the most profound growth in our children.

I am the farthest thing from a master story teller. However, it is an art that I have profound respect for, and the most beautiful part about it is that the responsibility for the story’s theme can be shared between the parties telling the story. In most cases, this is a mother, a father, and their children. While there is no one scenario or set of instructions for telling a story, insert their name or the nickname you have for them into the story as being the main hero or heroine. If they are young, use their name and/or a nickname and link it to an animal. Preferably one they like or one with a character trait that represents your child. For this story, I chose Billy Bear, a nickname my youngest son has had for many years. After you begin the story, watch your child light up and assume control over the destiny of the lead character (whom by the way is a representation of their inner world). Not only are they assuming control over the story line and its themes, they actively problem solve in these scenarios, which in turn, will show you glimpses of the acclimation of the value set you teach them as a parent. Your child will lighten up, develop autonomy, and learn a foundation skill to direct their life by practicing this skill.

Secondarily, if you lack a story line, Fairy Tales are a starting point. These stories are particularly useful for children, as they prime the psyche for the steps of life to come. While some end with a “happily ever after,” others can be quite dark in nature. Neither is right nor wrong. Each story, whether dark or light forces the psyche to realize both of its sides. Either way, you are exposing your child to the idea that there are good and bad choices in life, and you can amplify this by asking the simple questions: what do you feel would be the right thing to do? What do you feel is the appropriate action to have taken?

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In reading or telling stories to your children, you prime their psyche for life to come. You also help to activate their imaginations, which is a cornerstone for all future dreams to come. By telling your children stories, they learn first hand what your moral and value systems entail. What stories do you want your children to tell about you, or better yet, what stories do you want your children to learn from you and ultimately pass on to their children.

Raising children is an interactive, experiential journey, and collective journey. It takes a village to raise a child. However, when approached from an open perspective of healthy curiosity, it is a Journey of Great Rewards Earned from Hard Work. It is a Journey that You are In Control of as a Practical Parent, and One Your Children Will Happily Thank You For.

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