childwatching

I am reposting this from my old, old website, to go with the new blog post I’m posting today…

I unintentionally saw “Avatar” this past weekend.  I had thought I remembered that someone I trusted said I “had” to see it.  Oops.
I admit that life without a TV and only seeing a few movies a year for the past ten years has made me pretty picky about the stuff I watch, but still.  What came up for me was this: we need to tell better stories to our children.

Our children, our teenagers, and we ourselves, need to hear stories that orient us, inspire us, and that mobilize us FOR something worth working for.  Could we create a new paradigm, one in which we are working for, not fighting for, something worthwhile?  Instead of telling stories about how to be the Us that’s better, stronger, and smarter than some evil Them, can we figure out how to tell powerful stories where no one has to win and no one has to lose?

It’s pretty well-known by now that the images we create in our minds with words, create actions. Saying “Walk!” works better than saying “Don’t run!” to establish and change behaviour.  When children see, hear, or read certain stories, they try out the behaviours, ideas, and beliefs they are exposed to.  (I know this for sure – in this past week, Grandma read my girl a book about drawing on walls with markers, and my little girl took to the walls for the first time in her almost 5 years.)  Do you think that if we start to tell and choose stories of cooperation, problem solving, people uniting for the common good, that we might begin to change the way we think about our collective future?
I hear the chorus of voices (I’ve heard them often in my life) saying “Lisa Kathleen, you are too idealistic!  It is human nature to polarize, to compete, to need to kill to win, to need a bad guy!”  I say DITCH that idea. I believe human nature is evolving, but more than that, I believe that if it isn’t, it can. I believe it because I cannot be the only one out here who believes in peace without needing to blame war on anyone. I cannot be the only one out here who wants to watch stories of solutions that don’t need losers. I cannot be the only one who craves a new story, not just new special effects. (I didn’t even get to watch the 3-D version of Avatar, by the way. Some say that if I had, I could have forgiven the whole thing. Somehow, I don’t think so…)
Here are some ways to tell better stories to your children.  1) Tell YOUR stories.  Your childhood, your learnings, your adventures.  The mistakes you made.  How you do things differently now.  The insight you gained.  2) Tell THEIR stories.  Their birth.  Their birthdays.  Their accidents.  Their adventures.  3) Tell their ancestors’ stories.  Find out everything you can, and tell those stories.  If there are learnings associated with them, great.  If not, that’s okay, too.  The connection that children gain from knowing where they came from is key.
What you will notice as you tell these stories is that children, especially young children who haven’t been exposed to our typical cultural stories, don’t need great battles.  They don’t need a bad guy for them to be interested in the story.  They don’t even need much plot.  What they need are stories that orient them to themselves, to their place in the world, and to what’s going on inside of themselves.  (You may have heard me talk before about orienting as one of the primary roles of a parent.  Children attach to adults through orientation.  When we orient our children in the world, we deepen their connection to us.  When our children know that we are the ones who can help them understand what’s happening inside, and outside, themselves, they consistently turn to us for insight.)
When children watch movies, read books, or hear the stories you tell them, they take away understandings about the world.  If the story shares certain paradigms (The bottom line is Us versus Them or Might makes Right) then children, who are gathering information to create their framework for understanding how the world works, use that information to orient themselves in the world.
I am inspired by thoughts about what would happen if we applied this tool to our choices of movies, books, and TV programs for our children.  What if we chose stories whose implicit messages and paradigms say “There is always a respectful solution,” or “When people work together, amazing things can happen”?  What if the bottom line was that when we change common cultural beliefs, we can change the world?
I believe that parenting for sustainability involves sharing models of finding solutions that work.  We’ve spent enough time and energy with quick-fix, might-makes-right solutions that don’t create sustainable relationships on any level.  Let’s share stories that lead to different endings.
Please comment below to share books, movies, or other stories that you know of that inspire us with different paradigms.