There is so much you want to teach them. When they’re little. When they’re teenagers. When they are out of the house and about to get married. When they are struggling at their job. When they are raising kids of their own.
What’s the best way to do that? Well, depending on their age, one way would be to give them very explicit instructions. Do this. Listen to what I say. Here’s how this works. That’s the easiest way, maybe even the most natural way. But does it work? Well that’s another question. You can also teach them through your own behavior, as we’ve talked about before. But that takes time and isn’t always the right solution when someone has a problem right now and has come to you for advice. Are there any other ways?
What about stories? Lincoln, for instance, was famous for making his points obliquely, often through anecdotes. “They say I tell a great many stories,” he once said. “I reckon I do; but I have learned from long experience that plain people, take them as they run, are more easily influenced through the medium of a proud and humorous illustration than any other way.” Jesus said that same thing—rarely did he come out and say what he meant. He preferred parables and stories and little anecdotes that made you think. It’s turned out to be pretty effective over the years.
And so it will be with your kids. We learn through stories—whether it’s the story of Cinncinatus or a story about the time when you were their age. We learn when people share moments of vulnerability, of their hard-won experience. We don’t like it when people tell us the point, we like it when they show us.
So stop thinking about giving them all the answers and start thinking of stories. It’s the best way to teach.