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Parenting Series- Using Storytelling for Discipline

"The mom was executing a powerful parenting tool to teach her child how to control his anger — and one of the most intriguing parenting strategies I've come across. "With little kids, you often think they're pushing your buttons, but that's not what's going on. They're upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is." -NPR Article "How Inuit Parents Teach Kids to Control Their Anger"

I recently read an article that intrigued me about a way to work with parenting skills on children in teaching them ways to control their anger. Too often I find that popular parenting books tend to focus on the behavior of the child and what a parent can do to change that behavior. This philosophy can often lead to reinforcing parents that they can control their children, and therefore control the reactions their children have. I've found that when a parent spends all their time and energy focusing on their child, they lose some necessary self-reflection about how they too might be influencing the behavior. As a parent, 80-90% of the focus should be on you and what you are modeling, 10-20% on how the child is responding to what you showing.

This article analyzed a different culture than the U.S, the Inuit culture, particularly observing the way they parented. I think they highlighted the Inuit culture because they are known for being a peaceful society, children and adults. The writer of the article stated that the number one rule in their culture across the board was that they believe in not yelling or shouting at small children.

"There is no raising your voice to children, it is seen as demeaning, as though the adult is having a tantrum."

Well when you cannot yell or use your tone to demonstrate that you mean business, what is left to use as a skill? Their solution to discipline?.....They use storytelling.

They use oral stories designed to sculpt kid's behaviors, to teach and prepare them for how they want them to behave. They use storytelling, a child's language to speak to them. Not use of lecture in communicating things such as, "You should have done this....". Instead they use the magic of childhood, by giving them a story, helping children to understand what you need of them.

We all use storytelling, even as adults. We learn through our own narratives or the kinds of stories we have played out as our reality to often determine then our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Storytelling is saying what you need to say without forcing someone to listen. If discipline is a means to teach, then storytelling is a means to teach.

There are a couple main ways to use storytelling as discipline for a child

  • Do it when the child is calm and not angry in the moment

  • Ask lots of questions to the child

  • Practice having a different response or outcome


Parenting can be so tricky and at times we can overanalyze what to do in fear of doing things wrong. I think it is important to let that fear go and recognize that that fear is paralyzing you as a parent not guiding you. Learning to listen inward, to your inner child will help you in your parenting. When you start to trust your instincts then you will find new ways to listen to what it is your child really needs.

Oral storytelling can be an intuitive way of working on this. It can really impact a parent child relationship in such a healthy way if a parent is open to it. I really believe it can help a parent connect to their child in new ways when they can learn to speak in a language that their child understands. You as a parent have those tools of storytelling within, it is just a matter of taping inward, finding the intention of what you want your child to use or listening to what they need, and allowing your own creativity to use your strengths.

The next couple of posts I am planning on writing some of the oral stories I've created for kids I work with to help teach a variety of emotional regulation. I hope you find this to be helpful!

What about you? As a parent, how do you control your child's anger and what have you found to be helpful.

Here is the link below for the article!


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