Why do kids love stories so much? Is it just entertainment, a frill?

I think there’s more to it than that. I think the love of stories is innate; it’s part of our human software. In fact, human life is a story, and reading good stories to kids helps them make sense of the world.

But there is another important collection of stories that you won’t find in any library or bookstore. It’s the stories your kids tell you, and the stories you could tell them about your own experiences.

In her book, Building Self-Esteem In Children, Patricia Berne says that these stories are vital in helping to build strong relationships with kids.

She tells the story of the time that her daughter Julie came home from school very upset because of something quite embarrassing that had happened.

After supporting her daughter for some time and listening (without judgment) to her story, Berne was eventually able to tell Julie, “I remember once in school walking down the hall, loudly mimicking and complaining about a teacher to a friend, only to discover when I turned around that the teacher was walking right behind me.”

Of course, Julie immediately wanted to know the details. She asked: “What do you say? What did your friend do? What did the teacher do?” And then she sympathized with her mother, saying, “Gee, that must have been awful.”

Sharing stories of our lives helps the child gain some perspective on their own problems. And it’s a powerful bonding experience. But I think there’s something else going on.

To be a kid is like living on a different planet from the adult world. They see that larger, adult world, but it’s strange and mysterious to them. They don’t know how it works and they can’t really imagine living there.

But when we tell stories of our experiences—even the little things—it’s like we are sending messages from our planet to theirs—letting them know our world is not so strange after all. We’re saying, “Hey, I’m out here, and it’s okay.”

Also, by truly listening and sharing our stories, we are doing something very human: we are creating the shared literature of our lives.