PST #24: Telling A Better Story

Learning to tell a better story helps us raise successful kids because the way we describe a situation determines how much power we have to change it. The good news is, there are multiple, true ways to tell any story.

For example, your kids say there is nothing to eat. You say “I just bought $400 worth of groceries.” Your child’s version feels true to them because they were hoping there was still leftover pizza. So when they tell you there is nothing to eat, they don’t notice the cereal, the sandwich fixings, and the burrito bowls. Perspective matters.

Storytelling also plays out in the ways we talk about ourselves and our children. If you tell the story that your teen is irresponsible, you limit your ability to help them become more responsible. You get more of what you expect, so why not expect more? This week I’m going to show you how to expect more, by telling your stories in constructive ways.

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What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Hear how the same story told three different ways takes me from stumbling alcoholic to excited friend to concerned citizen.
  • Learn how the stories we tell reinforces themselves and create more of the same.
  • Show how the story we tell limits the solutions we think of and how changing the story expands the available solutions.

Get a full episode transcript:

Read Full Transcript

Sunday night I fell running from a liquor store. It was dark and I was in a hurry, and when I stepped off the curb onto something unexpected. Instead of falling into the street full of God knows what, I hurled myself up onto the grass.

Sounds bad right? What am I doing at a liquor store on Sunday night? Why was I running from it? Did I rob it? I sound like kind of a degenerate alcoholic.

Let me tell you the exact same story in 2 others ways and see what you think.

Sunday I was coming home from a convenience store when I fell. I was running late and so excited to talk to my best friend about the trip we had coming up that I was distracted and not full paying attention. Third way: Sunday I was walking to the convenience store near my house. Despite being located right next to the high school there is a short section that doesn’t have a side walk so I was forced to walk in the street. Because there are no street lights in that section I couldn’t see where I was going and I fell, nearly into the street.

I sound like I’m at the city planning board trying to get them to extend the sidewalks around the high school.

All of those stories are factually true. And yet they sound completely different. Even just the difference between calling it a liquor store versus a convenience store makes a huge difference.

How we tell our stories makes a difference.

When we tell ourselves we are a good mom that sometimes makes mistakes because no one is perfect, we feel compassion.

When we tell ourselves that we are a shitty mom who is probably screwing up our kids, we feel like failures.

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

Because while we are feeling like a shitty mom and beating ourselves up for yelling at them Instead of being patient, we aren’t motivating ourselves to be more patient. We are making ourselves feel bad. And the thing is that we naturally move away from things that make us feel bad.

Remember the motivational triad. Avoid pain. Seek pleasure. Expend minimal effort.

When we make parenting more painful by beating ourselves up, it doesn’t make want to be better parents, it makes us want to check out.

We feel irritated by their rude behavior. Feeling irritated feels terrible. So we blame them for making us feel irritated which leads to more irritation. If’s a downward cycle.

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

And they matter to our kids. If you tell that story that girls are divas and expensive to raise. You are going to notice every time your daughter makes a diva-ish request and maybe not notice the dozens of times that she’s chill.

Or if you tell the story that teenagers are rude and self centered, your brain naturally finds evidence to support that idea. You notice every time they forget to put their dishes in the dishwasher and leave the gas tank empty.

Or if you let your kids tell the story that it’s hard for kids who don’t drink and do drugs to make friends it will be. Or if you let your kids tell the story that there is nothing in the house to eat, they sure won’t notice the cereal or sandwhich fixings.

Whatever story we tell becomes true for us. Our amazing brains find evidence to prove us right. So it is important to tell a story that you like. Because if you tell the story that your daughter’s got great friends - you will be helping her appreciate the one’s she has. She will become more likely to make more great friends when she thinks of herself as someone with good friends.

I’m learning Spanish. When I tell the story that my Spanish sucks and it’s too hard. It doesn’t make me want to practice. When I tell the story that
I’m getting better every day and could even communicate with the taxi drivers in Cuba then I feel proud and excited and I want to practice more.

Take every opportunity to tell a true version of your stories that support you. You’ll be happier, you’ll learn Spanish faster, and you’ll role model the skill for your kids.

The stories we tell matters so make sure that a version that supports you. Adidos mi amigas. Hasta luego!