How to Mesmerize the Young Ones
You’ve tried your attention clap rhythm or your “Class,” “Yes,” or your LOUD voice, and there’s still chaos. Two little ones are turned toward each other deep in conversation, another is lying on their back, one is taking the bar on the nearby xylophone and slowly lifting, lowering, lifting, lowering. There are three that are looking back at you (bless them) and the rest…are not.
I was reading the article, “How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger”, and this paragraph stood out.
For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: “We use storytelling to discipline,” Jaw says.
Jaw isn’t talking about fairy tales, where a child needs to decipher the moral. These are oral stories passed down from one generation of Inuit to the next, designed to sculpt kids’ behaviors in the moment. Sometimes even save their lives.
For example, how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, “Don’t go near the water!” Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what’s inside the water. “It’s the sea monster,” Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids.
The article says lots more about storytelling, but I thought, “I’m going to give it a little twist and give it a try.”
Ok, here it is. It really works. In a normal voice say, “Once upon a time…” Their heads will turn toward you, they will stop talking, and you BETTER have something more to say immediately or you’re done.
“Once upon a time there was a little boy who loved to go visit his grandmother. She lived out in the forest and it took a while to get there but it was worth the drive because when he got there, his grandmother always had made his favorite cookies. She and the little boy would go out in the forest and look for animals. The little boy loved seeing the deer and the squirrels, the raccoons and the birds, and even the spiders and insects that lived in the forest. But one visit, his grandmother had reminded him about listening to her whenever she talked because sometimes she could find the most special animals and if he wasn’t listening, he would miss them. He promised her that he would always listen to her and pay attention. They continued to walk and the little boy found a tree with a big spider web. As he went over to look at the web his grandmother said, “Look what I’ve found.” But the little boy wanted to see the spider web and did not pay attention to his grandmother. After he had looked at the spider web he walked back to his grandmother and she said, “I wish you had been paying attention because I saw something very special.” He said, “What did I miss?” And she said, (dramatic pause), “A unicorn the color of a rainbow.” Well, it’s time to go home. Maybe next time you’ll get to see it. And the moral of the story: Always pay attention so that you aren’t missing something special.” The end.
I wasn’t about to have the little boy get eaten by a wolf or mauled by a bear, but just a little reminder to pay attention with the overarching benefit that because I was storytelling (it’s magical, right?), they became a quiet cohesive group for a little while.