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The other night I was reading the popular fairy tale story of Little Red Riding Hood to my daughter. It’s one of my favorite classic fairy tale stories as a child. As a former Special Education Teacher, every time I read a story to her and her brother, I always like to spot the message of the story. This way, I am making sure that the story has some meaning to my children. Every story, either for children or adults, will always portray a message, we just need to figure out what that message is.
Fairy tales are a perfect way to teach our children important messages in a fun and engaging way. Stories teach our children skills that will help them in the adult life. Sometimes as parents we do not have the proper words or ideas on how to communicate important messages to our children, and this is where stories come into play.
For those of you who do not know this story, this is how it usually goes, please be mindful that there are different versions, but this is how I remember it, and how the story that I read to my daughter goes:
“Little Red Riding Hood talks about a little girl whose mother told her to visit her sick grandmother and deliver a basket of food. Red’s mother told her to not talk to strangers on her way over to her grandmother’s home. On the way, Red encounters a wolf and starts talking to him. During the conversation, she tells the wolf that she is visiting her sick grandmother, and needs to take her a basket of food. The wolf, who was hungry and wanted to eat, tells Red to take a “shorter” route to her grandmother’s house (it was a longer route) and arrives before Red. The wolf eats Red’s grandmother and waits for her on the bed, disguised as her grandmother. When Red arrives at her grandmother’s house, she starts suspecting that there is something weird about her. Red starts asking questions about the “grandmother’s” physical appearance. At one point of the conversation, the wolf shows who he really is, and tries to eat Red too. A couple of hunters hear Red’s screams for help, and they rescue her. The grandmother is also rescued from the wolf’s stomach, and the wolf goes away.”
What is the message of Little Red Riding Hood?
Little Red Riding Hood got me thinking into what is that message that it wants to teach children, and here is what I came up with:
- Children need to obey and listen to their parents. Parents set rules for their children, for various reasons: protection, routine, and structure. Children need to learn the cause and effect of events, and their actions. When parents set rules and children disobey them, there should be a consequence for their action. This does not only go for parents, it also applies to other authoritative figures (i.e. teachers). As parents, we need to get our children ready for the adult world. If our child breaks the law or gets fired from a job, the actions that they do in each situation will determine their fate. It all starts at home.
- Never talk to strangers. This is just like the saying goes “Stranger, Danger“. We need to teach our children to be wary of strangers, but at the same time, teach them that there are some strangers that are safe, like police officers, doctors, teachers, nurses, etc. We need to teach them that not everyone they meet has good intentions for them.
- Always follow that gut feeling. Red knew that there was something wrong with her “grandmother”, her 6th sense was telling her something, but she chose to ignore it. We all come equipped with this 6th sense, some people follow it more than others. As parents, teaching this 6th sense can be challenging, especially, if their gut feeling is telling them to flee a family member or someone they trust and love. Children need to learn to confide in their parents or another trustworthy person. As parents, we only want what is best for our children, and we are here to protect them from strangers, other family members or friends that want to do harm towards them.
How to practice what you learned from Little Red Riding Hood?
- Be clear and concise on your rules at home. Give to your child the expectations of him/her at home (i.e. chores, homework, bedtime). If he/she disobeys them, what are the consequences of doing so? The same thing goes, if the child obeys and follows the rules for a certain amount of days, tell him/her what is their reward. I suggest that when doing rewards, instead of buying material things, create memories. For example, go to the beach, the community pool, go camping and/or hiking; something that can be low budget, but at the same time, where you and your child can have quality time together.
- Practice with your child on what to say to strangers, if you are not present. Practicing a dialog will help your child feel better prepared if they ever encounter a situation where they do not feel comfortable talking to the stranger or a person they know.
- Have a heart to heart dialogue with your kids. Tell your children that they can always confide in you, that you will always believe in them no matter what.
It is my belief that we need to prepare our children for the tough adult world. As a mother, I am constantly teaching and giving my children the adaptive skills that they will and might need in the future. On another note, I am also teaching them about compassion, acceptance, and humility. Hopefully, they will be the change desperately needed in this cruel world.
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
― L.R. Knost