Teaching Kids Life Skills through Stories by Dr. Jyoti Hegde
Do this, don't do that and the chorus never ends... Many of us have grown up listening to this. Isn't it irritating to be continuously corrected and advised on what is to be done? On the other hand, most of us have fond memories of listening to stories in our childhood. As most of us prefer stories to lectures why not use stories to teach kids? We have heard many stories that teach us messages on moral values, like the goose that laid the golden egg that teaches us not to be greedy. However, I haven’t come across stories that can help my kids deal with the day to day challenges they come across. I decided to come up with stories for kids on these topics.
Let me share a real life incident. My 3 year daughter Reya used to not talk to people other than her family. I tried explaining to her how important it was to open up. But to no avail. My parents, Amey, Amey's parents all tried to explain why she needed to be outgoing, but Reya just smiled and did not change. Then one day I thought of telling her the same in form of a story. The story seemed to make an impression on her. This is the story... A Tale of a Tongue
Once there lived a girl named Tina. She was knowledgeable but shy. She felt comfortable to speak to only her family members and one or two friends at school. When her parents would introduce her to anyone, or even if she met someone she knew, she would neither greet that person nor speak anything. Tina's parents kept encouraging her to speak to others but she never listened. In school too, Tina would not respond to questions asked by her teacher, despite knowing the answers. Her tongue was very upset with her as she was not making good use of it.
One day, Tina had gone for a school picnic. While playing, she got lost in the forest. In the forest, she came across several people but she didn’t feel comfortable asking them for help, as she had never spoken to people other than her family before. She tried to search her way out but only got deeper into the forest. Tired, she fell asleep under a tree. When she woke up, she saw her parents and teachers who had managed to find her with the help of some locals. Out of joy, she wanted to scream "mamma" but no words came out from her mouth despite her best efforts. Her parents and teachers got worried and immediately took her to the doctor. The doctor asked her to show her tongue. But when she opened her mouth, lo and behold, Tina’s tongue was missing! Tina was very sad and started weeping silently.
Next day, Tina’s tongue came and sat on her windowsill and said hello. Tina was surprised to see this sight. Through gestures, she asked her tongue the reason for leaving her. Her tongue replied “Tina, you were blessed with a tongue but you didn’t make proper use of it. You didn’t speak to anyone other than your family. You didn’t answer questions in class. You didn’t use me even in your hour of need. So I thought I can be of use to some unfortunate child, who doesn’t have a tongue but would love to speak.” Tina realised her mistake. She promised her tongue that she would change. Her tongue agreed to forgive Tina and returned back to her mouth.
From that day onwards, Tina started greeting known people, making new friends and answering questions in class. Tina and her tongue lived happily ever after.
Reya liked the story. She identified with Tina and found that Tina's situation was similar to what she was facing. The visual image of the tongue talking to Tina made it more impactful than listening to a boring lecture. Having characters and dialogues made it interesting for Reya and she didn't switch off. Over the next few days, I continued telling her more such stories. Slowly after a few weeks, Reya started to open up. Since I found that telling stories works well while teaching kids good habits and life skills, I came up with a few more stories. In one of my stories, 'DARE to Answer!' a girl Siya shares a technique of how to answer questions in class with her shy friend Riya. This story can be used by parents to encourage kids to answer questions in class. In 'Battery Down!', Rahul's body asks him to charge it regularly by eating healthy food on time. This can be used by parents to encourage kids to eat breakfast in the morning. In 'The Third Option', Karan's Grandpa shows him three pictures to make him understand the importance of self motivation.
Instead of giving kids boring lectures and repeatedly saying do this, don't do this I found that it is more relaxing and enjoyable for both the parent and the child if the message is conveyed through stories. So, the next time you want to share some important message with your kid, try weaving a story around it and see the difference!
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Dr. Jyoti Hegde is a Corporate soft skills trainer and a life skills trainer for kids based in Goa, India. Her passion is to conduct sessions for kids on the values, habits, and life skills needed for health, happiness and success.