The Power Of Stories

(I initially wrote this post in June 2021 but it got lost in my Drafts folder. Here it is!)

Zee pointed out a great article about how Inuit parents teach their young. It covers how the Inuit culture handles anger and as a corollary, anger with children. And about how they use stories to discipline in an interesting way:

[on anger and scolding]

The culture views scolding or even speaking to children in an angry voice as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice?

“No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”

[on stories]

… how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, “Don’t go near the water!” Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what’s inside the water. “It’s the sea monster,” Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids.

“If a child walks too close to the water, the monster will put you in his pouch, drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family,” Jaw says.

“Then we don’t need to yell at a child,” Jaw says, “because she is already getting the message.”

How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

I was thinking to myself that the attitudes about anger were good but the story-telling idea wasn’t anything I would ever use. And Zee wrote about how she didn’t think storytelling like that would be so manipulative as to be damaging. I was unconvinced. And then it struck me! I had used exactly those kinds of stories with Abigail yesterday! Let me tell you…

Megan and I were teaching Abigail how to write her lower-case letters and… well, she can be rather strong willed. She had been working in her letter workbook and I suggested that she write the letter “e” the way the book shows and I got this long, heated rant as to how she couldn’t, wouldn’t, and won’t.

I went looking online for a video about making letters to get her started. I found this video about writing “cannon pop” letters (update: that video is gone but here’s another from the series). The instructions they give for making letters are built-in to these crazy, non-sensical songs. For example to draw “q”, the little character, “…q taps two clouds, curls ’round, leaps up, then way down, and tosses her crown!” Well, Abigail ate it up! She watched the whole 5 minute video with rapt attention! And she insisted on watching it again! Later, she was writing her letters in the book and I could hear her reciting the lines from the video! The thing is, she wrote her lower-case “q” better than she had ever done before, all because of stories!

I’m going to make sure to add more story-telling to my teaching repertoire!

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