Writing stories to pass values from one generation to the next

Pardon the Interruption

Pardon the Interruption

Pardon the Interruption

I was reading through some of my blog posts from one of my first attempts at blogging. Boy, did I need this post that my 47-year-old version wrote to my 49-year-old self. You’re invited into the life lessons classroom to learn with me.

Author and speaker Paul Tripp led a parenting conference at my church a couple of years ago.  One of the key components of his teaching for the weekend was about the inopportune times when parenting takes place.  I would encourage you to read his article “It’s Never an Interruption.”  Here’s a snippet:

“Parenting is all about living by the principle of prepared spontaneity. You don’t really know what’s going to happen next. You don’t really know when you’ll have to enforce a command, intervene in an argument, confront a wrong, holdout for a better way, remind someone of a truth, call for forgiveness, lead someone to confession, point to Jesus, restore peace, hold someone accountable, explain a wisdom principle, give a hug of love, laugh in the face of adversity, help someone complete a task, mediate an argument, stop with someone and pray, assist someone to see their heart, or talk once again about what it means to live together in a community of love.”

Read the full article here.

Pardon the Interruption / CC BY-SA

Pardon the Interruption: I Need Room to Grow

How do you engage in what Tripp calls “prepared spontaneity”?

One part of growing up that we tend to lose sight of as parents is the actual process of growing up.  Consider that our kids are still gaining experience.  They are likely not as good at important life skills like decision-making as you are nor as good as they are going to be.

Why?  Well, inexperience, for one.  Think about what you do for a living: Were you as good at your craft when you started as you are now?  Probably not.  You wanted—even expected—a little room to grow into the job requirements, right?

Your kids need some time and space to develop important life skills.  They also need some direction, some guidance, some life coaching.  In other words, they need parenting.  They need us to occasionally, even often, pardon the interruption.  Whether your kids want to admit it or not, most of you have an important voice in your kids’ lives, no matter their age.  So how do you use that voice?  May I suggest something that comes easily enough to most of us?

Pardon the InterruptionPardon the Interruption: Let Me Tell You a Story

Tell stories.  Have your kids heard the stories of your successes?  The teams you were on?  The awards you won?  The time you got your name in the paper?  The “A” you made on the important paper?  I hope they have.

Have your kids heard the stories of your failures?  I hope — for their sake AND yours — that they have.  They need to hear that you weren’t “all that.”  And they need to hear you say that you haven’t always been the person you’ve developed into.  They need to hear that you, too, were (are) a work in progress.  They need to hear the experiences, positive and negative, that have shaped you.

Pardon the Interruption
amylynnstudio / / CC BY-NC-ND

Pardon the Interruption: I Spilled the Milk

You know your own children, so structure your conversations to meet them where they are in life.  But tell them your stories!  They may shake their heads when you tell them one they’ve heard ad nauseum, but tell it anyway.  They will remember it and the lesson you attach to it.  Here are some of my examples:

Have a child who struggles with clumsiness?  Ask them how that makes him/her feel and relate to it.  (I would use “You Spilled Your Milk? Let Me Tell You About the Time I Shattered an Entire Case of Apple Juice While I Was Working at Jitney-Jungle!” story.)

Have a child working through inevitable athletic failure?  Get him/her to answer the typical sideline reporter’s question, “What was going through your mind when you…?”  (I would use my “Picked Off Against the Team Whose Pitcher’s Cap Was Turned Sideways and Whose Catcher Was Wearing a Shower Cap Under His Helmet” for that one.)

Have a child who is trying to make good relational decisions?  Listen without giving instructions at first as he/she talks through that process.  (I would use the trusted “What NOT to Do Based on My Courtship of Mom” diatribe.  THAT one’s humbling, I can assure you.)

These are not always convenient conversations to have.  Most often, the opportunities arise out of necessity.  But these conversations are essential if your child is going to be able to grow up in an environment conducive for growth.  Let your stories encourage your children to grow into the people they were meant to be.

Pardon the Interruption: The Bottom Line

Parenting happens at the most inconvenient times.  What will you do with those times?  Instead of responding in anger or even condemnation, use your experiences, your stories.  Even stories that sometimes feature you as the goat of the stories.

Attach values to your stories.  Identify with your kids.  Given a learning environment of grace, their life skills will improve more than they, our you, could ever imagine. And so will yours.  If you’ll pardon the interruption.

About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell.

Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel, Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and the Coach Dave series. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

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