Stories that motivate…or don’t…

This morning at Northland, Joel Hunter illustrated a point he was making about effective and ineffective methods of influencing people (specifically how fathers influence their children to live godly, productive lives) which I found fascinating.

He’d been weaving in and out of talking about ways that fathers make their kids deep-down angry — that one way is to not set boundaries and not be in control and that another way is to say and do things that make your kids feel like they can never satisfy you or meet your expectations. There are weeks worth of unpacking that could be done on those topics alone. From my 11 years as a high school teacher I can give many examples to illustrate those points

Anyhow, he was encouraging fathers to respond to their kids’ achievements with affirmation and expressions of pride and celebration. He didn’t imply that there is never room to have the “you can do better” discussion — but that it should come later.  
An interesting study he’d read brought this all home.
A study was done of kids who were known to lie with some consistency. The question the study wanted to answer was “what kind of story will make a kid lie less?”  One group of kids was told the story of the boy who cried wolf which illustrates the horrid consequences of telling lies. Though very attentive to the story and “shocked” by the outcome (the boy is eaten by the wolves in the version they told), they showed no measurable difference in their lying as a result of having heard the story.

The second group was told the story (the fable) of George Washington cutting down his father’s beloved cherry tree and then confessing that action when asked. His father’s response that his honesty in owning his actions was more valuable to him than an orchard full of cherry trees captured the attention of the listeners. However, this group was impacted beyond the moment. They showed a marked decline in lying instances after hearing that story.
What might we learn from this?  
We may learn about the power of stories to change behavior, and that’s a good thing. And learning this may help us to tell the stories of Scripture better — to not “moralize” them all the time — a pretty common tendency and one which admittedly drives me batty.  
Beyond that, I think I’m learning more about the power of love and affirmation expressed clearly and consistently. And that makes we wonder how I can get better at it. So much to learn…

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