I’m excited to be here this month to share a great resource you didn’t even know you needed! You know that in the past few months I have shared some book reviews (click here and here to see those).
But today I have something a little different for you.
If you have sons, you probably want to teach him things like honor, courage, character and honesty. But, wanting to and actually doing it are two different things entirely.
I ran across this resource in teaching character to boys and I thought it was too good not to share. First, a little background…
Michael Gurian, author and educator
Michael Gurian is an author, family therapist and educator that has worked with school districts, families, churches and criminal justice agencies. He has written extensively on child development and has written over ten books. I heard him speak on this podcast and found his wisdom to be incredibly valuable. He returned to Read Aloud Revival again to speak on the topic of girls and why listening to them is so incredibly important.
Through these podcasts, I wanted to learn more about what Gurian had to offer and found this little tool. It is called What Stories Does My Son Need?: A Guide to Books and Movies That Build Character in Boys.
First, there are 100 books and 100 movies chosen over the course of a boy’s life. These stories are broken up into age groupings that are best appropriate for the child. Next, Gurian gives 3-4 simple questions to engage your child that highlight certain character traits. For example, when discussing The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, he asks, “Can you think of a time when you cared too much about yourself and not enough about someone else? Why is giving as important as getting?” The questions are simple, invite engaging conversation and don’t feel laborious.
The Power of a Story
Dr. Gurian says: “A decade of research into child development and the media confirms that until a child’s brain develops fully, it is imprinting, modeling and performing based on imagery it takes in from all social sources, including the media. Even once we’re adults, our brains remain malleable to media imagery, as the continued effectiveness of commercials confirms. But among children and adolescents, the effects are even more profound. Especially until about age sixteen, the greater the exposure a boy gets to stimuli that do not teach compassion and self-restraint, the more difficult it becomes for him to learn such things.”
He goes on to say that storytelling is powerful, but even more powerful neurologically speaking. To our kids, the stories they watch and hear and read are not only for entertainment but also a fountain of moral teaching as well. Because of testosterone (the sex and aggression hormone), boys often gravitate toward stimuli that appeal to these aggression-based images. Therefore, they can be exposed to images and content that is way too mature for their young minds.
If you consider the way humans previously used stories, adults would share folk tales to share stories about heritage, identity and character. Fairy tales were later introduced to teach young ones how to progress through to maturity and the Bible is used to help our children understand spiritual concepts. Today however, Gurian says:
“In our contemporary confusion about the worth and substance of stories–a natural confusion, given that millions of stories bombard us daily–we have forgotten their highest use. In our busy lives, we have been unable to cull the useful stories from the useless.”
But as parents we can share good stories with our kids. This then gives our children the chance to watch (or hear) how someone else displays honor without them having to live it. Then, when a situation demands their own honor (and we all know it will), they’ve had the time and space to think through how they can and should handle it on their own. We want to teach and prepare our kids for everything but it is impossible. But through the power of a story, we can share the experiences of others to prepare them for their own.
Maybe you are a parent of only girls. Don’t discredit this great resource! We all want our sons to understand self-sacrifice and empathy. But girls also need these traits and to identify these traits in the men around them as well.
You know that I’m very passionate about books and reading to my kids. But if these stories can help give my kids the tools they need for making the right choice and choosing the right friends, it is worth every penny. It is my hope that you find this resource valuable for your family as well.
What books or movies are valuable to you for sharing moral lessons with your kids? What books or movies had a profound impact on you as a child?