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Parent Lesson #1: Tell Hero Stories

By Zach Lahn on January 06, 2022

Three lessons from my years on this Wonder journey have become my “go to” strategies as a parent. Combined, they work to free my children (and myself) to journey forward into life with courage and confidence.

Lesson #1: Tell Hero Stories.

Children need heroes. Almost as much as they need healthy food. Hero stories are survival mechanisms and vision sustainers. They move the human spirit forward when other forces try to hold it back.

Let’s begin with an understanding of the word, “hero.”

At Wonder, we describe a hero as someone who gets back up after falling down – who struggles, hurts but gets back in the game.

A hero is the opposite of a victim:

  • A hero accepts responsibility when a victim blames or finds excuses.
  • A hero works to solve a problem when a victim complains that there is one.
  • A hero keeps going when it gets hard when a victim quits because it is hard.

Very simply, a hero is an ordinary person who says YES to a challenge – crosses the threshold from comfortable to uncomfortable and begins a journey into the unknown.

The ultimate framework for a hero story is the Hero’s Journey. Think Sir Lancelot and the Holy Grail, Harry Potter meeting Voldemort, Luke Skywalker and the Force, even Nemo and Simba. Think of the best movies and stories of all time.

These stories follow a familiar pattern. Joseph Campbell called them the grand mono-myth and specified its archetypes and stages. Here is a condensed description:

  • The main character – the hero – lives in the ordinary world and is an ordinary person.
  • She receives a call to adventure and at first resists it.
  • Then, a mentor crosses her path, somehow changes her mind and she commits to face the challenge – to start the quest.
  • Along the way, she is tested and forms alliances and friendships.
  • She faces a major obstacle – a life-changing ordeal.
  • She battles monsters (mostly those inside herself like resistance, distraction, and victimhood) and finds guides to help her.
  • Ultimately, she overcomes the ordeal and discovers a treasure.
  • She begins the journey back home and shares the treasure with others.

The fascinating truth of the Hero’s Journey is that it’s not really about the treasure. It’s about how the hero is transformed along the way.

Every time you talk about an ordinary person doing an extraordinary thing, you are making a deposit into your children’s bank of hero stories. They will draw upon this spiritual food when they face their own monsters or become weary in their struggle.

The most important part of the story?

The struggle.

Don’t forget to remind them there is no real treasure without it.

[Blogs or portion of blogs may be adapted from the blog of our partner school founder and advisor, Laura Sandefer.]