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eTips from the Storytelling Coach - Number 6

Can storytelling teach children respect?

April, 2001

eTips is a free electronic newsletter from Doug Lipman. You can subscribe, unsubscribe, or read a more detailed description of the newsletter at the eTips page. You can also read the other back issues.


1) Can storytelling teach children respect?
article/story, Tell Me More, Daddy:
2) Workshop announcement: Telling Stories to Children
full description:
3) Healing Arts news: join "healingstory," the new on-line discussion group.
complete info:
News tidbit #1: The second issue of the Storytelling Workshop In a Box (SWB), "What do they expect?" - about learning to read and make use of audience expectations - is shipping soon:

Tax day special: It's too late to become a charter member of SWB, but the NEXT TEN folks to join can receive the first two issues and only pay for shipping on one. (When you order, enter a quantity of 2, a discount amount of $2.85, and a discount certificate title of "eTips 6". Otherwise, your membership will start with the second issue at the normal rate.)

News tidbit #2: Last chance to sign up for Hope: a Storytelling Workshop (May 4-6, near Hartford, CT. Email me immediately for more information!

1) Can storytelling teach children respect?

Like many of us, I discovered storytelling when a group of children listened a story out of me. A recent family concert reminded me of why I love to tell stories to children - and of how liberating it is for both child and adult.

Think for a moment about our normal adult role with regard to children. Most of the time, we're the voices of "reality:"

  • "No, you can't put your plastic pail on the stove."
  • "People don't like it when you talk like that."
  • "You won't have time for your homework if you watch that whole video."
We become disciplinarians. We have power, are in control. Often we try not to show indecision or vulnerability. In schools, we are generally the ones who do the talking, and children are expected to obey us, learn from us, and show us respect.

When do we show CHILDREN respect?

Storytelling is a powerful tool for stepping outside of our typical - admittedly, sometimes necessary - roles as bosses and administrators.

When we tell a child a story, our interaction remains structured but the dynamics change. The child is usually an eager listener. We share a gift of the mind.

Suddenly, we are not enforcing rules or teaching lessons. We are stimulating the imagination in an enjoyable way. Language becomes a tool for sharing experience. Fascination gains precedence over practicality. We share with delight, not with determination to instruct.

We may broaden our range of expression beyond what's accepted in the workaday world. We may become silly, make animal sounds, or act out the behavior of the hulking, slobbering giant.

In our mutual enjoyment of the story, we may even become vulnerable. We can step out of the strait jacket of "having to be right" and into the magic shoes of playfulness.

Is this "mere entertainment"? I doubt it. We are presenting information about the world - but in the whole context of human experience. The hard bones of factual information about our childhood (or about George Washington's character, etc.) are presented with the flesh still on them - embedded in the sensory reality of experience, of human actions, aspirations and emotions.

Beyond that, we are teaching how to speak the natural language of children, artists, and visionaries: the language of images and metaphor.

Children who are not yet ready to analyze their feelings can nonetheless find ways to represent their fears and hopes in the tribulations and triumphs of story characters.

Suddenly, we don't have to be perfect, or even right. We just have to keep telling.

When I was a boy, my father made up a story for me - and, in his confusion about the need to be perfect, taught me that what matters is not just the story you tell, but the act of telling. (The whole experience is described at

Offering a "love gift" (psychologist Bruno Bettelheim's term) of story to a child transforms us both. It brings out the child in the adult, and gives the child an experience of being respected. Who can respect herself - or insist on being treated respectfully - who has not been respected?

For a workshop based on the joy and impact of telling to children, read on.

2) Workshop announcement: Telling Stories to Children

For the last thirteen years, Judith Black and I have taught a four-day workshop called "Telling Stories to Children."

This playful, thought-provoking, empowering workshop is held in Judith's home and garden in the historic New England seaport of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Stay in a local bed and breakfast, stroll down to the harbor before dinner, and learn more than you thought you could in just four days. Combining coaching with workshop presentations, integrating beginners with seasoned professionals, this is a workshop that people come back to again and again.

This year, it's held Monday through Thursday, June 25-28. You can read a full description at - or ask me to email the article to you.

3) Healing Arts news: join "healingstory," the new on-line discussion group.

Explore the use of storytelling in healing, share information, and explore controversial issues with others who share this interest - and are out there discovering what works and how. Complete information is at

All the best,


P. S., Email me for one or all of these, or view them on the web:

What you get with the Storytelling Workshop In a Box:
"Tell Me More Daddy" - my experience with an unfinished story from my father:
Telling Stories to Children workshop:
healingstory email discussion group:
(To unsubscribe to this newsletter, just email me your request. No special format is needed, because a person will read your message, not a machine!)




Doug Lipman

152 Wenonah Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106 U.S.A.
Phone: (781) 837-1940
Alternate Phone (rings the same line): (413) 754-6728
Fax (toll-free): (888) 300-6665

This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
Copyright©2001 Doug Lipman