WHY you should tell bedtime stories to your children and HOW to do it

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We need to hear stories and they make us human. Stories were and are how we learn values, behaviors and make sense of the world as of early age. Stories are most powerful ways to influence adults as “humans are wired to be persuaded by stories” (Maria Konnikova “the Confidence Game why we fall for it .. every time”).

Anyone can learn to tell a story. Business leaders deliberately learn to tell stories and anyone can learn this skill. In “Leadership Engine” Noel Tichy writes how leaders grow next generation of leaders by sharing experience via stories and how great leaders like Jack Welch were learning to do it better. There are few basics that we can learn from Noel and my favorite one is “having a teachable point of view”.  So once you know what is the “learning you want to share”, story will have a purpose and will be easier to create.

Bedtime stories are important in nurturing relationship with your children. Bedtime stories help to reflect on today, prepare for tomorrow, digest what happens around in a playful way. It is a way to talk to your children when they are open to hearing. For me, it is also a possibility to unleash my imagination and be in the present. I really enjoy telling the stories.

How are we creating bed time stories in our family? 

  • For more than 5 years now we tell bedtime stories first to Sasha (who is 7 now) and then to both Sasha and Nikita (7 and 3). It is one of our evening rituals together with reading and singing lullabies. It is an optional ritual but they really really enjoy it and are always excited when I ask “shall I tell you a story?” They often ask themselves “tell us a story” which is their way of saying – talk to us about something relevant to us. Each time I listen to Maks creating a story I feel I can’t do it so well, but then I also do it and it turns our easier than feels at the start. We even have an idea of putting our “simply bedtime stories” into a children story book as some of them turned out to be really good.
  • We ask Sasha and Nikita what the story should be about and they give us main characters (sometimes we end with strange starting points like the ceiling and the lamp and the window, sometimes echoes of the day). It’s also my way to see what is on their mind and what are they happy or worried about.
  • Give characters real qualities that present in life but more inspirational and story-like (anything can have real qualities. Let’s take the strangest example above: ceiling protects house from rain, lamp lights the way, window shows the possibilities outside of our house).
  • Relate to what is going on in family life (events that will happen tomorrow or happened today, worries or anticipations like travels, first day of school, guests, playdates). “There lives a family in the city w 2 children a boy and a girl and their parents. Their grandparents lived far…. They wanted to travel and talk…”
  • Think about ending early in the beginning “what is the teachable point of view “. I often do not have it before I start, but I think as I describe the characters and I always come up with it before the middle point of the story.
  • Use to bring up desired behaviors and discuss values and bring your close family/friends in if they are not living close to you.

So here are 3 most important tips that anyone can do to tell stories and make them more alive (from “leadership presence” by the Ariel Group)

  • Tell it in the present time. (“We are going through the forest….”)
  • Provoke the senses. Create real environment via describing the sight, smells, touch, feelings (“the forest is dark, smells like forests after rain with mushroomy feel in the air, there are sounds of early morning birds singing”)
  • Have a teachable point of view. Come up with it in the first part of the story after you describe characters (or have it ready even before if something important needs to be discussed in the storylike manner).

You can read more but sometimes less is more and practice is more important than theory. Start today. You children will love it, you will develop the skill also important in business and you will have one more tool to have a quality discussion with your children.

Enjoy!

Polina

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