When people talk about “parenting,” movies rarely come up as the source of inspiration and guide. I’m here to tell you to reconsider.
Storytelling already comes naturally to us. We start and end our days with conversations. Films are no different, albeit packaged differently. We do this because stories stick—we share a tale to our kids, and the next thing you know, that story has been passed on to your grandkids.
Watch today’s episode where I share how stories make such a great impact on our kids and how us, parents, can use them in telling them what they need to know about life.
Recommended Books mentioned in this episode:
Science of Storytelling by Will Storr
Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks
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Today, we're going to talk about storytelling and why I feel that it's one of the most powerful skills that you need to develop, among others, to becoming a better parent and a better father. The cool thing is storytelling is something that we already do naturally. We do it every single day, in every single conversation. I challenge you, actually, if you think about it, to be in a conversation and not tell a story. Even more challenging is to sit in a conversation and not be told stories. It's just the way we communicate. We tell the story of our day. We tell stories about how something happened to us. How the boss treated us terribly. How an ex-girlfriend did us wrong. And that's why we're doing this. And we're doing that. We look around, almost everything that we do day to day and everything that we engage with is the story. Whether it be online or offline. Every movie we watch, every book we read, every article, every song is a story. But some of them are just better than others. Some of them are told and packaged better than others, which make it to where we resonate with it more and we enjoy it, we love it, and we share it. The other cool thing about stories is that they're really sticky. Stories really stick to the brain. With a good story, we're able to remember it, and tell it, and share it. It makes an impact. It's the same thing with our children. If we want to teach a valuable lesson, it's another thing to say, "Don't do this," but "This is why. Let me tell you a story." And you go into a story. Ideally, it's something real and authentic that you experienced. So as a kid, my dad used to tell my family this story. He really didn't want us slurping our soup. He hated it. And as a way to get us to stop slurping our soup, he told us a story of a kid that he knew in his town in Mexico who died from slurping his soup. Now, looking back at that, it's silly. But as a child, it kinda stuck. The problem was is that he kept telling that story or variations of that story in which some kid died when they did something that their parents told them not to do. And now my family makes jokes about that. Me and my siblings make jokes about that every time we get together, because it's absolutely silly. And that's the problem. When you tell a bad story, after a while it doesn't work, or it stops making sense to the kid. And they start to dismiss it. But the lesson is there, and he was just trying to get us to not slurp the soup. And I think nobody has died from slurping soup, but that's for another story. Stories are timeless. Some of the stories that we tell today have been around for thousands of years or variations of it. And on top of that, you can find them in almost every single culture across the world. There's variations of that same story. This is one of the most fascinating things to me. Disney, Pixar, and all the other major movie studios have done the same. They've mastered the art of story, and we show up in the millions and throw our money at them and then throw t-shirts on ourselves and posters around certain stories. That is incredibly powerful and something that I feel we should all learn to master. All the movies are teaching lessons. If you really focus on this story, they're teaching you a life lesson or two, usually one really big one. What's crazy is that some of the biggest decisions that I've made in my life came after watching some movies.
Good Will Hunting and Benjamin Button, I forget the full name of it, convinced me to quit my job. There's only one life to live, and I have some talents. I have some skills, and it would be a waste to not leverage them, not to do something with them, to give the world. That was a combination of Good Will Hunting and Benjamin Button. Pixar's Up taught me what is, to me, the absolute biggest lesson ever in parenting. And that is to just focus on giving my children time and attention. The toys and everything else didn't matter. That movie shifted my parenting or gave me the focus that I needed to be a better father and a better parent. Give them the attention, give them the time, and everything else is pretty much insignificant. Everything else will fall into place, and money didn't matter. Attention and time. This is what's going to help really make that story stick because if you're just telling them what to do, it's just not the same. There's a place for rules. Obviously. We all need rules. However if, especially for children, if you really want to make an impact, how about you tell the story about why this rule is in place and be honest? Don't just say, "Well, I made that mistake, so you're not going to make it, and here's the rule." Tell them the truth. I think that will go much further than simply dressing it up and making it a rule. Dig in a little bit. And do this with everything you want them to learn in life. It really is that simple. Any lesson that you want them to learn, tell them a story. It could also obviously be from someone that you know, maybe you didn't experience it firsthand, but you know someone who went through that very experience, and you're trying to convey upon them the lessons that they learned. That's how what you want to do. Next time you want to teach your kids a very valuable lesson about life, don't just tell them what to do or what not to do. Chances are that if it's very important to you, it might be something you have personal experience with. From the moment we were born, we're given stories. Our mind starts to create stories. 'Cause it's trying to make sense of the world. That's the reason that stories are magnificent. As as we pop out of the womb, we start to try to figure out what's happening. I've studied this. This is not me just making this up. But anyways, you pop out of the womb, and your mind starts to create these stories. And there are our parents and from, almost immediately from the moment we're born, our parents start to give us a story about ourselves, about our culture, what foods we eat, what traditions we follow what country we are patriotic to. What sports teams we root for. Go Cowboys! Sorry, I'm from Dallas. All these things are given to us. And they're all stories about who we are, what group of people we belong to, and they essentially become our identity. Stories help craft our identity. So this is what I'm suggesting, Dads. Tell a good story. Find a book. I'll include a couple of recommendations in the show notes for good books to tell better stories. Stories that capture your kid's imagination. Stories that will last for generations. And I know that sounds really crazy, but a good story will probably be told to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and it will make an impact. It's just story, on top of a story, on top of a story. One of the biggest stories and kind of series of stories that I tell my daughters revolved around family pride. I wanted them to be proud to be a part of our family unit, our clan. I felt that this was the best way to really teach them other lessons, to tell them other stories, 'cause if I didn't have them proud to be a part of this family, then they're going to dismiss anything I said, in any other story I told. And it worked, it really worked. And one of the coolest things that came out of it, and this is going to be true for any of the real stories that make an impact, is that they're going to be told for generations to come. Think about that. They're going to be told to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You can count on that, especially if it's their big stories in which you're being vulnerable and sharing something that you went through. It's a part of their story as well. Other stories that I've told included my artistic choices, why I decided to be an artist, and why it's so important to me. My decision not to go to college because of my art. I felt like I was going to be an artist when I grew up. So I didn't go to college. I have no college education. No diploma. But somehow, I figured it out. I wanted them to know that story. I have been brutally honest with them about the divorce from their mother. If they hear other stories, I want to make sure that they hear mine. Now, I try to never speak badly about their mother, but tell my story about the divorce, why I chose to divorce their mother. I wanted them to hear it from me. I want them to hear my version of the story and be as brutally honest about my failures in the relationship. I want them to know that I've made a ton of mistakes, but at the end of the day, I also divorced because of them. Because I loved them so much that I wanted them to grow up in a household where people loved each other and cared for each other. I had to get divorced. They needed to hear that from me. And they needed to hear all the honest, vulnerable crap that I went through. And then actually, the truth. They needed to hear the truth. Told them the story why I quit my job. Why I decided to quit my job, which is, told simply, is because I wanted to be home with them. And I wanted to give them the time and the energy and the attention that I had learned from watching Up. I wanted to give them that. And what's funny is that they can tell you all these stories now. I've heard them tell versions of these stories to their friends. Which is fascinating, but it goes back to what I said just a moment ago, the stories are sticky. They will be told, especially if you tell it well. The best stories are ones that have vulnerability and have pain and then have elements of growth and how you survived that situation and are now a better person because of it. That's why they're sticky. That's why they resonate with people. So, Dads! Stop telling boring stories. Stop it. If you want your kids to listen, if you want them to pay attention and to actually take action on the things that you're suggesting or the lessons that you're trying to teach them, tell better stories. Buy a book, be honest, and start implementing this in your day-to-day. Tell them about your divorce, your breakup, your whatever. Tell them! Tell them the truth. Let them know that you made bad mistakes. Let them know that you survived! That even after a heartbreak, here you are, whole, that you're here for them. That you've been able to survive despite a lot of the tragedies that happened in your life. Because I think, I think all of us have been through something. So tell those stories. If you really want them to follow through and really want it to resonate with them, you have to be honest, Dads, you have to. Your children are smarter than you think. Thank you for listening to today's episode. If you found this enjoyable, please leave me a review. Subscribe to me on iTunes, on Spotify, or whatever channel you're listening to. I appreciate you being here. Until next time, buh-bye.