Use Literature to Help With the Tough Job of Parenting
by Ken Young
When our only child was five years old, I started writing short stories for her. At first they were whimsical stories about fathers and daughters in a land with frogs twice the size of men, giant shell creatures, a mysterious owl, an evil magician, and a fearless hunter. At the same time, we surrounded her with stories from literature that reflected her mother’s and my values.
We intentionally embraced literature as one of the tools in our parenting arsenal. And, as our daughter grew, the characters in my story developed. The story became more of an example of characters becoming strong, and taking responsibility for their lives and destiny. The animals and humans continued to lead me into deeper themes, including: honesty, loyalty, endurance, responsibility, service to others, meaningful relationships, graciousness, mercy, and to stand up to the ever-present insidious aspect of evil.
Constructive parenting takes time—a rare commodity these days. Or is it simply how we value time? How we choose to allocate our time? And, what better way can there be but to spend this limited ‘currency of time’, than on the best thing we create throughout our entire lifetime: our children?
So, one thing my wife and I did to utilize this time more effectively, was unplug the television. For five years we eliminated TV from our environment. (And, if we had today’s digital devices, these too, would have been locked away for the evening). In place of sitting in front of television, we spent this time reading books aloud to one another. We read literature that reflected the values we held, and desired our child to embrace as an adult.
We found books and storytelling to be a wonderful tool in our parenting toolbox. Books were our teachers, relieving us from being the sole role of ‘sage on the stage’ or Ruler-of-her-life (very helpful as the teen years approached!) Instead of lecturing, we could cozy down onto the couch alongside our daughter—as participants, as equals—at the spectator level—to read, hear, and follow the sage wisdoms from characters within a story. Together, we could recognize beautiful human qualities, discuss confusing situations, analyze problem-solving decisions, and define life truths.
She started suggesting books to us that she was reading at school or had been recommended by a friend. We read books that I never would have experienced if it wasn’t for her. When conflicting values arose on the pages, we used them. We would ask our daughter to explain the pros and cons of such choices or attitudes. This was a cool strategy that helped our child learn how to think, as well as how to see and understand both sides of an issue. And, best of all, she was the one to point out right versus wrong (not us!)
Our daughter is now forty years old (which I find hard to believe). She is successful in her career and relationships. She remains an avid reader and seeker of knowledge. Gratefully, she possesses and lives the values we sought to surround her with throughout her childhood. And we are very grateful for the community of support and wisdom the three of us received from hundreds of authors.
For several years, my daughter has prodded me to compile the stories I wrote for her into one book—which I have finally done in the book, The King’s Frog Hunter. It is a story about choosing the right path, about being strong, and the power of truth, all wrapped into a fantasy adventure.
There are so many wonderful books and stories available for all ages to explore. Visit your local bookstores (Lyon Books in Chico). Check with the public library, and have your child ask their teachers and search their school library for books that resonate with your particular value set. These books can become a vital tool in your parenting toolbox; a partner in helping your child become the values you hold close.
I will be presenting The King’s Frog Hunter at Lyon Books at 7:00 PM, Tuesday, November 18th. Please join us and purchase your autographed copy!
Happy reading throughout your beautiful parenting experience!