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"Dad, Tell Me a Story!"

By Christopher Klicka
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #54, 2003.

How fathers can use storytelling to reach the hearts of their children.

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Chris Klicka

I've discovered one way that a working father can maximize his time with his children - by using the simple technology of a tape recorder.

In my experience, children between the ages of 2 and 10 love to listen to cassette tapes. Children will turn on a tape and listen to it over and over and over again. They will know the characters in the story inside and out, and they seem to never tire of listening to the tape one more time.

This provides an ideal opportunity for the father to have tremendous impact on his children. He can simply tell stories, ad lib, on tape. At first, the concept may seem a little frightening to some fathers. However, you will find that not only will you do a good job, but your children will love to listen to their daddy's stories on tape - which gives you an opportunity to help mold their character and give them instruction in many areas. At the same time you'll be helping your wife in an important way in the training of your young children.

All you need is a basic tape recorder and some high-quality tapes. The tapes need to be high-quality since your children will listen to them so often. There is nothing worse than for one of your taped stories to break, since the story will be lost forever.

There are time-saving ways to do stories for your children. I, for instance, have a long commute to work so I am able to tell my children stories on tape during this time.

Benefits of Story-Telling

The benefits to your children are many. First of all, they have the opportunity to learn directly from their dad key character qualities and apply them to their lives. Secondly, they also can grow closer to their dad by sharing the story-telling time with him while listening to the tape repeatedly with their brothers and sisters. My six-year-old daughter Bethany said one of the reasons she likes my taped stories is because it shows I care about her! Thirdly, they can gain more knowledge, from how to do something, to the consequences of disobedience, to historical truths and biblical principles. Fourthly, these tapes provide an opportunity for Mom and Dad to put the children down early with the lights out so that they can listen to the tapes and give Mom and Dad some extra time to themselves. Lastly, if you are a dad whose job requires him to travel like me, it gives your children a chance to hear your voice and not miss you quite so much. Of course, these tapes also give Mom an opportunity during the day to let the children calm down and have some time out listening to a tape so she can get some other work done or spend time with the older children.

Main Ingredients of a Good Story

So how does a father tell a story? The main ingredients for a good story are (1) imagination, (2) voice inflection (you cannot tell a good story in a monotone), (3) having a specific lesson, character quality, or skill to teach your child in mind, and (4) placing the story in a historical setting (this is optional). Since you deal with your children on a daily basis, you will know what important lessons, character qualities, or skills they need to learn. Therefore, once these few ingredients are settled in your mind, you simply need to start talking!

For instance, I will often begin my story by explaining to my children when and where the story is taking place. I might explain that it took place in Bible times or in the days of the frontier in our country or perhaps in modern times. Of course, each setting opens up thousands of options for you to describe the type of transportation used back then, the type of clothing, or the type of work of the time period. This also gives you the opportunity, if you so choose, to recount some true historical facts that may have occurred during the American Revolution or the Civil War or during the Exodus from Egypt. There are limitless opportunities for you to teach your children history, science, geography, and cultural information as you tell the story.

After I have established the setting, I identify the particular family around whom the story will revolve. I'll generally have a mother and father and three or four children of various ages. I will name each one of them. The children then become very attached to these characters and remember them long after they have listened to the tape. If you so desire, you can use the same family throughout various tapes if you are sticking to one geographic and historical setting. If you switch time periods, as I often do, you'll need to start anew with a new family and new children who have new characteristics.

As you tell the story, be sure to have the children and parents interact. This can be done by slightly changing your voice inflection and identifying who is speaking to whom. My kids love to hear me recount conversations between the characters in the story.

Building Your Children's Character Through Stories

As you tell your story, you can move the story toward a particular lesson. For instance, we lived by an outdoor pool for a time, so I told my young children a story about a child who was disobedient to her parents and ended up going too close to the pool and falling in. I recounted all the horror involved in not knowing how to swim and nearly drowning. Another example would be telling a story which explains what happens when a child lies and how one lie leads to another lie, and other members of the family get hurt. I have told stories about little children disobeying their parents and using matches or walking across a busy street and causing an accident. I have told many stories about children who find themselves in circumstances where fellow peers are pressuring them to do something that is against the Bible or their parents.

I regularly have the characters in the story praying, praising, and giving thanks to the Lord. My characters often read the Bible, too. This helps my children to see the importance of developing a consistent life of service to the Lord and godly habits.

Other stories involve children interacting with their dad about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us. Sometimes the children tell a neighbor about Jesus and the neighbor comes to the knowledge of our Savior. Other times the children tell someone about Jesus and are rebuffed or are questioned hard by the other child. All this enables my children to become very comfortable with the problems they'll face in this world and the types of people who will try to convince them not to follow Jesus.

You may notice that your children have been fighting with one another or have been disrespectful to their mother. This would be the perfect opportunity for a story involving children who engage in that same behavior. You can, of course, interact with Scriptures and the consequences of such behavior in your story. The possibilities are limitless.

Making a Story Exciting

I suggest that you make your stories exciting to keep your children's attention. That excitement could be in the form of a shipwreck or a child getting lost or the family finding a dog who's hurt and nursing it back to health. Other types of excitement that you can insert in your story can involve a family out on a farm having to fight off a wolf or a child who disobeys his parents and causes some major catastrophe. Many times, I will even make sound effects. Children love the exciting parts of a story but at the same time are picking up on all the lessons that you are teaching them.

Teaching Your Children Skills Through Your Story

Additionally, as you describe a particular family, you can spend a certain amount of time explaining the type of work the father does. The work might be carpentry or training horses or working on a computer. This will give you an opportunity to explain and give them a basic understanding of certain types of jobs and skills. You can introduce them to what work as a lawyer would be like or all the responsibilities and tasks of a mother. Maybe the father in your story is a policeman or fireman or is running as a candidate for a government office. In another story, the teenager in your story could learn some basic skills in the area of mechanics or excel in a sport. You can talk about how electricity works or how to track an animal in the woods.

Every father has a wealth of knowledge to share with his children. Telling them stories enables this knowledge to be easily imparted to the children. It gives them an opportunity to see how a particular skill works in real life and how attitudes and obedience to their parents can directly affect people's lives. You can essentially teach them the difference between good and bad behavior, and whet their appetites for learning more about certain periods of history or certain skills.

Above all, this provides the father a perfect opportunity to train his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Furthermore, your children will have an opportunity to grow closer to you as they see the desire in your heart to spend quality time with them through story-telling.

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