Does My 2 Year Old Have To Pay Full Fare The Importance Of Reading Fairy Tales In A Child’s Life

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The Importance Of Reading Fairy Tales In A Child’s Life

The Importance of Fairy Tales in Children’s Life

Wisdom from The Uses of Witchcraft by Bruno Bettelheim

I spent many delicious hours as a child reading fairy tales. Even today, many of the stories I devoured ring clear in my head, even though I haven’t read them in maybe forty years. Stories about dancing princesses fleeing to an underground world of music and balls, the discovery of a magic ring baked in a cake, the agony of a sister trying to free her brothers from a spell that turned them into swans – these elements of fairy tales. sunk into my heart and imagination and continue with me today. Why is this?

As I pondered this question, I had a chance meeting with a woman who had run a Christian bookstore for years. She told me about the many parents who would come into the store looking for suitable reading material for their children. If offered fairy tales, they would shy away, fearing the dark and disturbing images that had the potential to frighten and traumatize their offspring. Their argument would be like this: “Fairytales scare and present the world in a dishonest way. They would confuse my child about what is real and what is made up. They are full of ogres and witches and giants, so why would I allow my child to be terrified by things that even aren’t real?”

Since I write full-length Christian stories, I decided to explore these questions and address these valid concerns of many parents. I remembered a book I read when my first daughter was born: Bruno Bettelheim’s famous book, The Uses of Witchcraft. I remember the effect that book had on me, and because of its logic, chose to immerse my children in the world of fantasy and fairy tales during their childhood. Now that they are grown, I asked them how these stories shaped and influenced their world view and creativity. They have no doubt that their lives have been seriously enriched by this experience, and reading fairy tales has contributed to their healthy and confident attitudes about the challenges and terrors of this life.

Bruno Bettelheim was a child psychologist, famous for his research on autism. The aforementioned book written in 1976 won him a National Book Award. I love what he writes in the introduction. “Wisdom does not explode fully developed like Athena from the head of Zeus; it is built, little by little, from the most irrational beginnings. Only in adulthood can one gain an intelligent understanding of the meaning of one’s existence in this world. one’s experiences in it. Unfortunately, too many parents want their children’s minds to function as their own doing—as if a mature understanding of ourselves and the world, and our ideas about the meaning of life, didn’t have to develop as slowly as our bodies. and minds. Today, as in times past, the most important and also the most difficult task in raising a child is to help him find meaning in life.”

Working in the field of autism presented Bettelheim with the challenge of restoring meaning to the lives of severely disturbed children. He found that most literature for young readers was woefully lacking in the ability to accomplish that task, but also knew that literature held the best promise of transmitting a cultural heritage that he felt was crucial. And this is what he thought was necessary: ​​”To get rich.” [the child’s] life, it must stimulate his imagination; help him develop his intellect and clarify his emotions; be attuned to his anxieties and aspirations; to give full recognition to his difficulties, at the same time relating to all aspects of his personality – and this without ever belittling but, on the contrary, fully believing the seriousness of the child’s difficulties, at the same time promoting confidence in himself and in his future.” He goes on to say how important it is that literature provides a moral education that subtly, and by implication only, “transmits to him the benefits of moral behavior.” His conclusion? “The child finds such meaning through fairy tales.”

The German poet Schiller wrote: “A deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that life teaches.” How can that be? Bettelheim says, “These stories begin where the child really is in his psychological and emotional being. They speak of his harsh inner pressures in a way that the child unconsciously understands and … offer examples of both temporary and permanent solutions to pressing difficulties .”

Parents longing to protect their children from bad, scary things in the world do well to remember that this is the world we are preparing them to face. By hiding that world from their consciousness, by trying to delay or color the harsh realities of life, we do them a great disservice. We have the Bible as the master example of sincerity and the revealing and candid exposure of evil in its many forms. God has not censored murder, rape, betrayal, cruelty, incest and even sexual passion from the pages of His word. Parents may argue that a young child does not need to learn about these things, and it is true- there is a time and season for all things, and some are best covered when a child can be more mature to understand and emotionally handle. some of those things.

This is what Bettelheim says: “In a child or an adult, the unconscious is a powerful determinant of behavior. When the unconscious is repressed and its contents denied entry into consciousness, then eventually the person’s conscious mind will be partially overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconscious elements , and then the person’s conscious mind will be partially overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconscious elements, and when the unconscious is suppressed and its contents denied entry into consciousness. or else he is forced to maintain such rigid, compulsive control over them that his personality can become seriously crippled… The general parental belief is that a child must be diverted from what bothers him most: his formless, nameless anxieties, and his chaotic, angry and even violent fantasies. Many parents think that only conscious reality or pleasant and wish-fulfilling images should be presented to the child-that he should be exposed only to the sunny side of things. But such a one-sided price feeds the mind only in a one-sided way, and real life is not entirely sunny.”

Rather than shielding children from the evils of life, we can equip them with the tools necessary to face them head on with confidence. Bettelheim says that struggle against severe difficulties in life is inevitable, is an intrinsic part of human experience. If one does not run away, “but firmly meets unexpected and often unfair difficulties, one controls all obstacles and finally emerges victorious”.

The Elements of Fairy Tales

The fairy tale, according to Bettelheim, confronts the child directly with the most frightening topics in life: death, aging, loss of a parent, being captured or lost, and other stresses. The fairy tale simplifies all situations, allowing the child to grasp the problem in its most essential form. The figures are clearly drawn and the details, unless very important, are removed. All characters are typical rather than unique. Evil is as common as any virtue and both are usually embodied in the form of a figure or their actions. Evil is not without its attractions, “symbolized by the mighty dragon or giant, the power of the witch, the cunning queen in ‘Snow White’. “In many fairy tales the usurper succeeds for a time – as with Cinderella’s sisters and stepmother – but in the end, the wrongdoer is punished, and the moral is that crime does not pay. As the child follows the hero through his journey, he can identify with the hero in all his struggles-suffering and triumphing with him. Bettelheim says that the child “makes such identifications all on his own, and the internal and external struggles of the hero impress morality upon him.”

The most important element in fairy tales, to me, is the moral choice presented to the hero. The child learns that choices have consequences, and the child can choose what kind of person she wants to be. Only by “going out into the world” does the hero learn and gain happiness. The fairy tale is futuristic and guides the child so that instead of escaping into a world of unreality, she is given tools to help her develop character and courage to face what the world presents to her. Often the hero is lost, alone, scared. These are feelings that a child identifies with. However, her hero is guided and given help along the way because of his determination and courage. In this way, fairy tales work their own magic, because by reading them, the child feels understood and enriched, giving the child what Bettelheim says is “an enchanted quality only because he does not quite know how the stories have worked their wonder on him.

“Fairytales, unlike any other literature, direct the child to discover his identity and calling, and they also suggest what experiences are necessary to develop his character further. Fairytales intimate that a rewarding, good life is within one’s reach despite adversity – but only if one does not run away from the dangerous struggles, without which one can never achieve a true identity.” This is also a basic dogma of the Bible: that those who want to please God and gain his favor need to endure difficulties; that these trials produce patience, character and hope, and that hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5).

So, don’t discount fairy tales as a bad influence on your children. Rather, be selective, and choose age-appropriate stories to give them. But don’t be afraid to unleash their imagination and let them face their darkest fears. By giving them heroes to identify with, you let those fears surface in a subtle way, and allow your child to find his courage and make moral choices instead—choices that will build his character and affect the rest of his life.

I look at my daughters, now grown, and see how that world of imagination and fantasy helped them face adversity and struggles, gave them faith and courage, and stimulated their imagination, which spilled over into their art, writing, poetry, and music. We cannot hide our children from the evils of the world, and even explaining everything in a pat way from the Word of God does not remove the deep fears and worries that a child has. Only by bringing them to the surface in a safe and imaginative way can we as parents help them mature and become responsible adults. I think of that word, responsible, as answerable, because that is our goal: to help our children become able to respond competently to any situation that life puts in front of them, and fairy tales will help them do just that.

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