Healing From Within – Building Character Traits in Children for Developing into Responsible Adults
Host: Sheryl Glick R.M.T.
Special Guest: Paul Smith
In today’s episode of “Healing From Within”, your host Sheryl Glick author of The Living Spirit which shares stories and insights about Universal Energy, our intuitive nature and our capacity to navigate our emotions therefore getting to know ourselves better so we can release outdated patterns and develop new realistic perceptions and patterns for dealing with all life circumstances. We welcome Paul Smith author of Parenting With A Story which greatly appeals to Sheryl as an educator, healer parent and grandparent and should appeal to all people interested in finding ways to reach and teach our children how to live with good values great citizenship learning to treat themselves and others with respect dignity and honor.
Paul, who is a keynote speaker and corporate trainer in leadership and storytelling techniques and former executive and 20 year veteran of the Procter and Gamble company shares stories gathered from a yearlong process of interviewing people worldwide across a spectrum of ages, races and life circumstances reinforcing 23 valuable character traits vital for children to grow into responsible successful caring adults focusing on subjects concerning ambition, open mindedness grit Kindness creativity, curiosity courage integrity friendship self-discipline patience forgiveness and many others.
Paul tells us how he gathered such amazing and varied stories by saying, “To find those stories, I embarked on a yearlong process to interview one hundred people from all over the world and from all walks of life. The stories I’ve captured come from Australia, Belgium England, France, Germany…..” “I interview old people and young people, straight people, gay people, the rich and the poor, the hearing and the deaf, Christians, Jews Hindus, agnostics, and people from astonishing variety of professions…”
Most interviews yielded between five and ten unique stories. A review of history’s noteworthy attempts to define the most important character traits gave me confidence I was on the right track. Noble thinkers such as Aristotle Thomas Aquinas and Ben Franklin advocated many of the same traits. And similar traits can be found in the teachings of many of the world’s major religions and philosophies.
Paul says “Perhaps the most memorable lesson I ever learned about becoming an adult occurred at the most unexpected place and time; in a crowded restaurant on Secretary’s Day, April 1986. My father ordered “quiche” and half a club sandwich and all the men began to rib him and reproach him for making a choice to have quiche which was considered a female delicacy. Paul’s father rather than be intimidated asked the waiter to change his order and just bring only the quiche…this act showed Paul how to stick up for your own decisions and to use humor to show your opponents you will not back down. First, I hope you can see how simply advising children to “stand up to peer pressure” or to “be yourself” is less likely to help them navigate this situation than a good old story where the hero really learns from his mistakes or teaches others about their own mistakes. Platitudes that seem profound in a pithy piece of prose are surprisingly unhelpful to children in a real-life situation. They’re too vague and abstract. “What exactly does it mean to “be myself” or to “stand up to peer pressure?” Should I walk away, start a fight, or just ignore them?” At the end of the spectrum telling children exactly what to do in every situation is overly prescriptive and doesn’t leave them room to think for themselves. A keen quote observed by Hannah Arendt, “Story telling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”
Sheryl says she usually has coincidences with her guests that share an awareness that we are interconnected to each other responsible for our actions and behaviors and are sharing many of the same experiences. Sheryl says she noticed that Paul was an executive for Procter and Gamble, one of the main corporate entities in this country. “When Sheryl’s son was 5 years old he auditioned for a “Zest” soap commercial. When he came out of the audition Sheryl asked him what questions he was asked. He responded “They asked me if I would do the commercial in the shower without my clothes” My son answered “No way!” Perhaps they asked this question to see his level of maturity and also his level of self confidence so he wouldn’t be insecure or uncomfortable during the filming of the commercial. Maybe Procter and Gamble, being a very moral and well meaning company, wouldn’t want to do anything that is inappropriate for a child. I thought my son’s responsive might have lost him the commercial but it did the exact opposite. The people saw his “zest” for life and his self confidence and that he would be a good representative for their product. This incident taught Sheryl that always answering the questions truthfully from your own experience and heart-based reality would yield the best results and being true to yourself, as my son showed by his honest answer is always the best approach. “
Paul found that the way to get the best stories when interviewing people was to ask questions about specific moments in life. The only two questions I found useful that used the word “story” were “what stories do you find yourself telling over and over again as an adult to teach someone a lesson?” “What stories do you remember hearing as a child that taught you so valuable a lesson you still remember them to this day?” The reason I think they worked is because they weren’t vaguely asking for someone’s “best stories”, which can be wide open for interpretation. They ask for specific stories most of us can identify as soon as the question is asked.
Paul asks questions designed to elicit memories of concrete events in their lives where they learning their most valuable lessons- their unexpected moments of clarity such as; “Tell me about a time in your life when you learned an important but completely unexpected lesson. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made and why?”
One of the biggest mistake Paul has made and the story he tells happened when he was on a class trip as a young boy. Paul wanted the bus driver to turn up the volume on the radio but didn’t know his name. Someone told Paul the bus driver’s name was Toby. This was around the time when the TV series Roots was being shown and that was the name of the African American hero in the story. Paul said, “I shouted out at the top of lungs, ‘Hey Toby! Turn up the radio!’” The driver glared with disgust and anger but Paul did not know what he had done wrong. So Paul repeated what he said (Toby can you turn up the radio). The driver’s name wasn’t really Toby. “How humiliating it must have been for the driver to have a ten year old boy disrespect him in such a degrading manner in from of a bus full of children? I was very ashamed and embarrassed and too immature to apologize. I learned from the unforgettable pain in the bus driver’s eyes, what it must have been like to be an African American man in a small southern town in the 1970s. I learned how easy it could be to offend someone if you’re not careful. Even though the person you’ve offended may be someone you’ve never met before or ever see someone again, it doesn’t make your offence any less offensive. I learned the importance of admitting your mistakes early and apologizing for them. How much better it would have been for me (and the driver) if I’d had just the courage to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”
Paul says we should consider each story not as the final word on the subject, but only as the beginning. After each telling, have a conversation with your young person. Much of the wisdom you pass on will come from the discussion and listening to how the child feels about himself and the characters in the story. Talk about the events in the story and how well or poorly you think the people in the story behaved. Would you have done the same thing if you’d been in their situation?, or something entirely different? You and your child can draw wisdom from them by following the path of the people in the story.
Paul says “The purpose of this book is to give parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, counselors, clergy, and others important in the lives of young people a collection of 101 compelling stories from people all over the world and from all walks of life to help them teach life’s most important lesions to the next generation of humanity. And it doesn’t matter whether the child is five or fifteen or even fifty. We’re never too old to learn from a good story.”
Paul Smith author of Parenting With A Story has established an approach for parents to share stories which teach the great virtues which are so necessary in helping find a positive way to deal with life situations. Paul demonstrates the power of a great personal story to reach and teach children by showing the hero struggling and succeeding in a way that is interesting and meaningful to them.
Paulo and Sheryl have expressed certain statements that are said to children every day…Just be yourself, if you believe you can achieve it, It will all be worth it in the end. But while this is all true to a child it has little meaning. At the other end of the spectrum many parents are telling their children exactly what to do in every situation and this doesn’t encourage the child to think for themselves. So it platitudes and rigid prescriptive advice fall short to inspire instruct and motivate kids where can we turn. Great story telling where children can associate with the hero or heroine and see that by facing their challenges, accepting help where needed, and by using all the resources available to them, they can achieve success and be proud of how they handled their own challenging situations. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children is the ability to trust themselves and others, to ask questions and expect satisfactory answers from the adults in their lives that resonate with their own values and needs and to realize that happiness is found through personal growth and the ability to project their best intentions and values into the world …it is not in the lower expressions of fear such as greed anger jealousy or ignorance or through materialism that we find answers to understanding what we need and wish to develop in ourselves, but in the higher emotions such as joy kindness open mindedness courage and integrity which can be encouraged through daily living and great stories of success that we can ultimately find peace and success and become the best person possible. We still like to think that heroes ultimately conquer the villains and negativity, but we must develop the proper perceptions and skills to help our children and ourselves stand up to the many serious problems our world is now facing…
Paul and Sheryl would have you be an example for living life courageously with integrity and grace to make the best decisions possible that will enhance your well being and that of your family. Taking the process from within your own intuitive sense of creation and disregarding whatever in the outside world restricts this inner growth will help foster these more wholesome qualities we wish our children to embrace..Engage in what feels good and right and walk away from situations that waste your precious energy and keep you stuck in patterns and behaviors that have no positive effect. That is the way of the warrior or hero of every story and you can write your own story of success in much the same way.