Telling Stories to Children: Don’t Explain The Message

I just finished putting my girls to bed tonight.  Like most parents, we read to our kids at night.  Kids often have their favorite books that they like to have read to them over and over again.  That’s fine – it goes back to establishing a pattern at bed time, which we talked about in a prior post.

When you read to your kids, you probably notice that almost every kids story book has a theme, or a message in the story.  Sometimes it can be tempting for a parent to analyze that message in a discussion with the child.  I’m here to tell you that this is a bad idea.

You need to realize that most learning is actually done unconsciously.  That is, with the unconscious (or some people say sub-conscious) mind.  Almost everything that you have learned in life was learned in this unconscious way.  You learned it before you became consciously aware of the learning.  Kids learn this exact same way.

If you explain a story to a child, then you are messing with the process of unconscious learning.  Don’t turn an unconscious process into a conscious process.  Trust me, it is a mistake.

I have been studying Ericksonian Hypnosis for a long time.  The late (and great) Milton H. Erickson was probably the best hypnotherapist that ever lived.  He was a truly incredible man.  He often performed “hypnosis” by telling stories.  These stories would be told to adults, and the hidden message within the story would serve to teach the patient something at the unconscious level.  Milton never explained the stories – because he knew that this would totally wreck the therapeutic results (i.e. the learning would be interfered with).

Hypnotic stories are really no different than the kinds of stories that we tell our children.  In fact, Milton Erickson often told stories to his children.  I wasn’t there to see how he did it, but I’m sure he never explained them.  He let them work their magic below the child’s conscious awareness.

Learn from Milton.  Read stories, tell stories and never explain them.

If you enjoyed this post you should check out my audio program for parents of toddlers.  It will help you to solve child behavior problems and enjoy a less stressful parenting career.

Enjoy your children,
Chris Thompson

SEE ALSO: This audio lesson will forever change the way you interact with your kids

3 Responses to Telling Stories to Children: Don’t Explain The Message

  1. Amy VG December 4, 2008 at 2:00 am #

    Hmm, this is an interesting post. I study a little bit of anthroposophy and waldorf education and it too suggests not explaining the message to children’s stories, more so that they can “absorb” it unconsciously. But what I’ve studied thus far, your explanation makes more sense. Thank you.

  2. Chris Thompson December 5, 2008 at 2:49 am #

    Hi Amy – I’m really thrilled that you like the explanations. I totally appreciated your blog post on my stuff also. Thanks!

  3. Vince Delmonte April 15, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    If you ever want to hear a reader’s feedback :) , I rate this post for four from five. Detailed info. Thanks!

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