ALBERT Einstein was once asked, “How do we raise intelligent children?” He replied, “Tell them fairytales.” And when asked, “How do we raise very intelligent children?” Einstein answered, “Tell them more fairytales.”
I used to think that telling fairytales to children before bed time is old fashioned. So, I relied on the conveniences of videos and youtube to tell stories to children all day long. Thankfully, when I became a parent (and later on, a teacher) in Tuburan Institute, I read about studies that emphasize the importance of telling fairytales orally to our children.
According to Rudolf Meyer, writer of The Wisdom of the Fairytales, the wisdom conveyed by oral tradition contain archetypal symbols to communicate with the human soul. In a sense, this means that instead of preaching or moralizing values to our children, fairytales or pedagogical stories (stories that are aimed in addressing certain behaviors like hitting) may come in handy to reach our children’s hearts and teach them values at their young age.
One time, my second daughter Kyrstynne started hitting everyone in the house. I told her a story I read about a gnome who hits her friends all the time until one day her friends stopped talking to her and her hands started to grow very rough and ugly. When she asked for help from the King, she was made to swear that she will not hurt anyone anymore and was told that an old woman who lives by the Well of Kindness can heal her by washing her hands. When the little gnome was healed, she became the most helpful gnome all over the place.
I told this story for three straight bedtimes. The hitting, thankfully, stopped.
You have probably heard before that a child below seven years old sees the world as “everything is right.” They cannot yet make judgments on their own that something is bad or good. They don’t understand that kind of rationalizations like we, adults, do. With fairytales, we appeal to the child of God within them and we also portray the negative tendencies of the human being. Through telling stories, we make them process the images of morality in their whole being without making them overthink.
The oral stories of the olden days compiled by the Brothers Grimm are great, choose what story you want to tell carefully. The Russian and Asian folklores also make great bedtime stories, there are a lot of collections that can be found on the internet. If your child is eight years old and above, you can tell them fables and by nine, you can tell them the stories from the Old Testament. I would advice though that you do away with Disney-tweaked stories. Many original stories compiled by the Brothers Grimm were altered by Disney to make our children prod us to buy what they are selling (no offense meant to Disney fans).
But how do we tell them fairytales? I’m pretty sure you have an idea how to, but just in case, below is the list of things you can do to make storytelling more meaningful to you and to your child.
1. Enter the space of calmness. Be prepared with your story ahead of time. Be quiet with your thoughts too and treat your storytelling time with reverence. Since you are sending your child to sleep, turning off TV and putting away gadgets one hour before going to bed will help you most.
2. Tell your story orally. Read: Do not read them your story. Tell the story like you know it by heart. So much is conveyed by the vibration of your words than the lifeless canned videos. You need not change your voice or your tone. You can tell it in monotony, slowly. Trust that the imagination of your child is at work this time.
Some stories, Cinderella, for example, was originally entitled Ashputtel. In that story, the heroine’s stepmother ordered her two daughters to cut their big toe and heel respectively because she thinks that when one of them becomes the queen, they won’t be needing their feet anymore. This is very symbolic because the feet is the symbol of our will, it carries us to where we want to go. When you tell this kind of happening to your child, do not place so much emphasis on it. Just tell it as it is.
3. When you finish the story, be quiet. Kiss them good night and trust that you have given them the most wonderful pabaon to dreamland.