The simplest, most empowering bedtime tip ever: Choose the story you tell your family.

Stories are powerful!
The stories and songs that fill your child’s head – that form values, lay the foundation for imagination, relationships, create the fabric of the future adult’s life – can come from an industry driven by profit and the need to sell things….or from you.

Choose your children’s stories
The first choice fills the empty air of television or is intended to get a gazillion downloads. Those stories are both amusing and part of cultural currency. Many conversations are initiated based on something funny or moving we’ve just seen. But these stories are everywhere. They’re public knowledge and not the best material for more intimate family memories.

The second choice creates strong relational bonds, shapes the values that matter to you and your family, and ultimately are a part of a child’s essential formation. It’s important that we differentiate between stories that grow us and stories that distract.

And there are stories that do both!
When my daughter was younger, she would ask for stories all the time. I’d reply “What kind of story?”

“Funny family stories!” was always her answer. When she wanted to laugh, she didn’t ask for jokes or for us to recount something funny we’d seen in the movies or in TV. She most wanted to hear about the time Grandpa slammed the bathroom door and the plaster from the ceiling fell down and made him look like a powdered sugar donut.

Even that is probably somewhere out there in sitcom land – a dad who slammed the bathroom door and ended up looking like a powdered sugar donut. But had I told the “as seen on TV” scene to my daughter it would not have gotten the belly laugh that it did, nor would it have her hug her Grandpa a little more strongly knowing he is prone to his own goofy moments.

We also told fables and will hear things like “Well…you don’t ‘cry wolf’ so many times and expect people to come running.” These are the stories that last a lifetime, making connections through generations. Each family takes classic tales and makes them personal by changing the names of the characters or using funny voices that only mom, dad, or a favorite caregiver can create.

Let’s teach our children early that…

Everything starts with a thought.

We can also choose our family stories from classic story books. I will never forget being captivated by James Whitcomb Riley poems read to me by my mother from her big blue poetry book. We also had The Complete Nonsense Book by Edward Lear on the bookshelf. When we were asked to write limericks in 3rd grade, no one had to explain to me how to do it – I knew intuitively.

This week’s free download of an mp3 and coloring page is Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”. I hope you find it as delicious as anything you’d eat with a runcible spoon! Download it by filling in the form below.

What family bedtime stories were your favorites growing up? Which ones do you share with the children in your care?