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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
192 pages
Jun 2003
Baker / Revel

Drivetime Stories: Making the Most of Moments on the Go

by Kelly Lingerfeldt Stille

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

A Mother-Daughter Adventure

      As I (Kelly) was growing up, my mother worked as a school psychologist. Because her work was filled with many different types of human interactions, she often wrestled with a particular ethical, moral, or behavioral question. As many of us do, she primarily struggled with these questions in her commuting time.
      During these years I showed horses competitively. Because I rode and trained nearly ever day, my mother needed to drive me to my trainer’s ranch as well as pick me up. This round-trip took about an hour each day. In addition to these trips, most weekends in the spring, summer, and fall were taken up with horse shows. Often these shows were an eight-hour drive from our home. Did we have time to talk in the car? You bet! We talked about regular growing-up stuff as well as issues surrounding competition and showing horses.
      Most importantly, we talked about people issues. Although my mother was careful not to betray anonymity, she would present case vignettes and we would discuss them. Since these were ongoing cases, they didn’t have neatly wrapped-up endings. They were unfinished, just like our own lives. We found that many of the quandaries had no one correct answer, though that didn’t mean the discussions were worthless. Through the discipline of logical analysis, I was encouraged to explore my ideas, increase my ethical development, and learn about the workings of my mind. I was then able to navigate my way through the often troublesome adolescent years using the moral and ethical decision-making skills I had learned.
      Today my mother and I are still very close, as is evident by the fact that we are cowriting this book. Although much of this closeness has to do with our genuinely liking each other, I am sure that much of it is due to spending so much time together talking about life.

The Guiding Principles
      I still remember a story my mother told me in the car one day about her relationship with one of her friends. I should preface this by saying that my mother is awesome at cultivating and maintaining her friendships; she has many close friends that she has had for several decades. Anyway, she had recently discovered that one of her friends had made an ethically unsound decision many years ago. My mother was dismayed for two reasons: First, she had heard this story from another person instead of her friend, and second, the outcome of the decision had been hurtful to another person. My mom was questioning whether she should confront her friend or let the past stay in the past. As was appropriate due to my age, I was not made aware of the specifics. But even without this knowledge, we were able to struggle together with this ethical dilemma. In doing so, I was able to advance my own ethical decision-making skills as well as feel close to my mom.
      Achieving these goals is what this book is all about, so we will begin by providing you with a framework by which to best use this book. Research shows us that children who are most advanced in moral reasoning tend to have parents who communicate with them in specific ways. The stories in Drivetime Stories: Making the Most of the Moments on the Go use the following four principles to generate moral and ethical development.

1. Support Children Emotionally in Discussions
      When we are warm and responsive to our children during discussions, we communicate the idea that they are valuable and worthy of such treatment. The expression of support during interactions around moral issues may be especially important.
      For example, parents trying to challenge a child to think through the moral consequences of some behavior will be more effective if they show support for the child’s point of view and exhibit empathy for the child’s feelings. In addition to providing a supportive platform for children to confront the moral implications of their (or others’) behavior, parents who take this approach also model concern for others.

      The larger message we are demonstrating is that people in general deserve respectful treatment. Thus we also provide a basis for moral reasoning: If people are worthy of compassionate treatment, what course of action is best in a given situation?

2. Ask Challenging Questions to Draw Out Children’s Reasoning
      Parents can enhance their children’s moral development by effectively using a series of questions. For example, parents can ask children how their behavior (say, refusing to share a toy) led to another child crying, thus helping children come to the answer themselves. This can and should be done in an age-appropriate manner so that the child can understand and absorb the message. For example, telling a toddler not to hit another child because it hurts the other child may be sufficient for communicating the message that one’s behavior affects others. This is an improvement over simply telling toddlers that such behavior is wrong.
      Preschoolers with more advanced perspective skills can make the connection between not liking to get hurt themselves and their behavior toward other people. As children get older, parents can engage them in more advanced discussions about how some behaviors are better than others.

3. Reframe and Reinforce Children’s Reasoning
      When parents take the time to explain their own behavior to children and show awareness of how that behavior affects the children, the parents implicitly acknowledge that children’s feelings and viewpoints are worthy of attention. This principle of respectful engagement can be an overarching theme for moral parenting.
      In other words, we can respond to our children’s experience while at the same time presenting consistent experiences while at the same time presenting consistent expectations, guidelines, and mature insights. This respect is at the core of morality. Parents will find that nurturing mutual respect in their relationships with their children will pay of in the future. One of the most basic ways to develop children’s respect for themselves and others is to respect them and require respect in return. The discussion of behaviors that parents consider acceptable and unacceptable helps children understand and internalize particular standards for behavior.

4. Encourage Further Moral Growth
      The goal of moral education is to encourage children to develop or mature into the next stage of moral reasoning. Moral development is not the result of gaining more knowledge; rather, it consists of a series of changes in the way a child thinks. Within any stage of maturity, thinking is tied to that stage. A child then reacts to the events happening around him or her according to the beliefs of that stage.
      However, children will at some point encounter information that does not fit into their worldview. This forces them to readjust their thinking to deal with the new information. Our job then is to encourage our children to begin to think about issues that are a bit higher than their present level of moral reasoning.
      A highly effective tool for supporting this growth is to present a moral dilemma and encourage your child to determine and justify what course of action the person in the dilemma should take. Through discussion, children are forced to face the contradictions present in any course of action not based on principles of justice or fairness. Even something as simple as discussing the day’s events also can involve a focus on the “whys” of behavior and their consequences for other people.

How to Use the Stories

      Drivetime Stories is a book you can quickly flip through to find appropriate stories to tell your children. The discussion questions that accompany each story are designed to provoke ongoing dialogue and develop moral reasoning.
      Stories do what didactic lecturing and scolding can never do: They make us want to be good. They don’t just give us ideas to believe, they show us characters to emulate. They reach into our imagination so that we also experience the shame of wrongdoing-and then the thrill of picking ourselves up and setting things right.
      Stories can be the best way to teach character because they impart a sense of life has meaning. Through the power of imagination, we become vicarious participants in the story. We identify with our favorite characters. Their actions then become our actions. In this way the stories can become a dress rehearsal for our own life choices. Stories also provide a wealth of good examples-the kind often missing from our environment. They show children the rules of conduct they need to know, and they demonstrate how this behavior looks in real-life situations.
      Jesus the storyteller demonstrates the usefulness of storytelling. Instead of raising a sword to conquer a nation, he sat down in the grass and told a good story. In fact, he told a lot of good stories. There’s a reason Jesus delivered his most profound teachings in the form of stories-parables about farmers planting seeds, women finding coins, sons who go bad and then repent. These were characters his listeners could identify with. Jesus used things commonly seen and known by people and cast them in easy-to-imagine stories that took unexpected turns.
      Even adults respond better to stories than to preachy moralizing. Think about the most memorable sermons you’ve ever heard. Were they abstract moral discourses or were they fascinating stories about characters in which you could see yourself? As parents, we can compose simple stories, hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit, to bring our message home to kids. After all, we are encouraged to read to our children from the time they are babies, and we are all familiar with children’s stories that end with: “And the moral of this story is…”. So, although we use books to teach moral development to our children, we don’t want to stop there. The stages of moral development continue throughout a lifetime. It is up to parents to initiate and facilitate this ongoing growth.
      As parents, we want to raise children who will be empathetic, moral, and ethical. One way we can help them get there is by modeling those qualities in the safety of our home or car. We have provided you with a starting point. For many situations that your child might encounter, we have given you a few stories to talk about. They are simple enough that you can talk about them anywhere with your child. We encourage you to take advantage of so-called downtime to talk about these stories. Time in the car provides a special opportunity because the driver has to pay attention to the road, and whoever is riding in the car can talk openly without being intimidated by having someone looking directly at them.
      Use this book as a starting point but build on it with stories of your own. Each family has its own concerns and issues. Use the things around you to develop stories that will affect your family in a more personal way. Since we cannot know all of you or the moral challenges you face, we can’t gear our stories to your issues. However, you can use our stories as a template for forming your own.
      Before you are going to be in the car with any or all of your children for a while, thumb through this book and find a story that reflects an area you would like to address. It isn’t crucial that you memorize every single word in the story. It is only important to convey the essential nature. Then as you are riding along, tell the story is simply and naturally as possible.
      As you use the suggested questions, the conversation may take an unexpected turn. If the turn is beneficial, go with it. If not, go to different questions. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my sons one night after our devotions. The reading was about remaining true to what you know is right rather than just going along with your friends. After I was done reading, I asked the three boys, “Why is it important to do what is right in the eyes of Jesus?” Graysen had been struggling with this issue, so he pitched right in by providing an example of his own life; it was clear that he understood this concept. One of the twins, Austin, had no such incident in his life at that time, but he loves to be included in any conversation, so he launched into a made-up story to demonstrate his understanding of the reading. Even though it was off the mark, it showed that he had begun to process this concept and was at least thinking about it in a developmentally appropriate way. The bottom line is, What would Jesus do?” With that in mind, you can always get back on track.
      It is always a good idea to encourage a verbal review the next day: “Do you have anything to add to yesterday’s story?” This reinforces the story and allows children and opportunity to share any new thought or feelings that they may not have expressed the day before. I know that I often need a little time for ideas to “percolate” before I am reading to talk about them. Your children may also need this time, or they may have started thinking down a path that needs to be redirected.