Be Selective In Choosing Mythological Stories For Your Kids

Article By Harshita.
As all mothers, even I wanted to teach my son the culture, which I was brought up in. I wanted to tell him the stories, especially the mythological stories, hearing which we grew up. When my son was about 5 years old.

One evening, I started narrating him the famous story of ‘The birth of Lord Ganapathi’. I expected that he would be happy and astonished. I observed a chain of reactions on his face. I could make out that he was disturbed when,
I said that the Lord Shiva beheaded a boy who stopped him from entering his house as his mother was taking bath. I can never forget the horror on his face when i explained him that boy was given an elephant’s head. Wiping tears with his little hands he asked,

“what happened to the elephant?”. Though I managed to console him, more questions followed which were very much valid and logical.
“Why didn’t Parvathi lock the door while taking bath?’,
“How could a father punish his little boy?”,
“Amma! You had told me that God is very kind, he loves children and treats everyone equally, then why did he punish
Ganesha and why he had to kill the elephant?”
Somehow I managed to end up the story by adding my own facts.

Mom with kid

This particular incident made me reconsider the way I wanted to narrate mythological stories to kids.
Shall I inculcate anything and everything in their pure mind in the name of ‘My Culture’ and ‘My Religion’?
Should I be scientific in my approach and make kids learn the hidden moral teachings behind these stories?
Perhaps, this is the purpose of Mythological stories – to stem a firm moral and ethical foundation in children.

So now before telling my kids any stories, I do homework.
I make sure the stories contain no violence.
I chose the stories which are logical and with true facts.
The story should have a moral and expect the kids to tell the moral.
I completely avoid stories not only with violence but also which violate the modesty of women.

Now I am better prepared to answer their questions. Also sometimes I ask the children to finish the story themselves, to keep their little brain at work. This would not only improve their reasoning but also helps them to take decisions in real time situation.

We can chose selective mythological stories for kids-
Which actually initiate thinking process in kids,
Which make them understand what is good and what is bad.
Which inculcates wisdom, discipline, devotion, dedication in them.

A child’s mind is like a fertile land. Its in our hands to make a beautiful garden out of it, because the sweetness of the fruit depends on the seeds we sow today.

16 thoughts on “Be Selective In Choosing Mythological Stories For Your Kids”

  1. Lord Shiva beheaded Ganesha as he was made with ‘Mal’ of Maa Parvatis body and this ‘Ashuddhi’ had to be removed so with great pain Lord Shiva beheaded him. The elephant who was beheaded was a devotee of Lord Shiva and had been waiting for salvation for years together before his head was taken for Lord Ganesha.

    Reply
    • Actually, it was not because it was “Ashuddh” but because Parvati’s son was created only using Shakti. There was no Shiva-tattva present. This was against the law of Nature (Shiva+Shakti).. When he was brought back to life, Shiva put his own energies into the boy, bringing the universal balance to him. Without this balance, the whole universe would have been imbalanced by such a powerful boy.

      Reply
  2. Even I faced similar experiences with my daughter. Parents should be cautious of narrating these type of stories. These days kids are smarter and more logical.

    Reply
  3. One way for a parent to respond to a question from a child whose answer she does not know, is to be honest and say that ‘Mummy doesn’t know the answer, but Mummy will find out the answer and tell you soon’.

    Another way (particularly for such mythological stories) is to tell one’s child something like this:
    God is very intelligent, much more intelligent than us. So when God acts out of compassion, we don’t very easily understand it. We have to try hard to understand God, and we have to keep trying all our life. Then we will be able to answer some questions, but some might still remain unanswered. God wants us to understand Him. That is why we were sent to this Earth.

    This is a very good question. Mummy is glad that you thought of this question. Even Mummy does not understand God fully. So Mummy and will make a partnership and we will try to understand God fully from today onward. Whatever questions we have, we will write down in a book, and leave some space for the answer so that we can fill it in whenever we find out.

    Reply
  4. Wow… though I agree with a lot of people who commented on this article, I can’t agree more with the one who wrote it. Why justify acts of violence in any tale, cultural or not if you can bypass them altogether? Why not come back to such tales when the child has grown up to understand things which have to be dealt more with faith rather than logic?
    If we try to justify things with weak facts and acts of blind faith we are just showing the child that to find justifications for our acts is fine… you can give a vague justification and get away with anything in life.
    Fine…God has mysterious ways of working which we might or might not be able to fathom but nobody knows things like these really happened or are just legends, hence called mythology. Giving children information which leads them to believe in God/culture and religion right now might make them avert the same, when they grow up; when they begin to question and when that happens, they will only feel strongly about the hypocrisies of Hindu culture.
    At one point we are making our children international minded, asking them to accept people, irrespective of age, caste, colour and creed and on the other hand we tell them that Ganesh was unacceptable because he was made out of maail (not mal, which means excreta) of his own mother’s body? (Similar to stem cells). And that justifies him being beheaded? I see logic there, but not a good one.
    I liked Gaurav’s way of knowing more about God… slow but steady 🙂

    Reply
    • “mal” means dirt… it can also mean excreta, but depends on the context. There is no word “Mail” in Sanskrit.

      Reply
  5. A wonder full article and comments for mothers! I just started to say stories to my toddler mostly moral stories only two mythology stories one is Lord Krishna’s birth and second is Lord subramaniam story of how he came to phazani-fruit of knowledge story.My kid completes the story if I start. Only simple questions. This article has now made me to think before I tell a story in future and the comments helped me to know how to answer such questions.

    Reply
    • I am Surprise with Dr. Hebbar explanation, i could not take as i belive he i.e Dr. Is a learned Brahmin and could make his kid understand easily the fact about beheading of an elephant and lord ganapati.

      Reply
  6. Hindu religion, unlike christianity, is not based on the premise of “God Loves you”.
    Our God is way above love and hatred and other emotions.

    The mythological stories actually need a sound understanding and firm belief on the part of parents.

    Our religion is way above love and hatred, life and death, violence and non-violence.
    Parents should try(if they can, else just leave that) to make their children understand the bigger picture and should also make sure that while narrating the stories, we are not self-degrading the culture and beliefs.

    If they understand the stories well then when they grow up, they will be a more practical person who sees the big picture and is not disturbed by wounds, deaths and violence. (s)He will grow up to be a more strong and practical human being, who is proud of the culture we come from

    Reply
    • Caveat to one of the comments above:

      When we humans talk of love, we mostly understand it as the human love that we see around us, which is far from perfect. It is therefore quite fair to say that God is way above this ‘human’ love, because humans have not yet achieved perfection.

      However, Bhakti, for example, which is considered to be a very sublime state is also on the same spectrum of love, only much higher, you can say “Love” with a capital ‘l’.

      So in “God Loves you.” – it does not mean human (lower case ‘l’) love. It means Divine Love: God Loves you. With this in mind, it becomes inaccurate to say that our (Hindu) God is way above Divine Love. All religions talk of the same Divine Love. In God’s world, there is no hatred, there is only Love, only Acceptance, only Oneness, no divisions. God is Love. Love is God. Only Love is. Only God is. All else is illusory. And so on, and so forth.

      The real question is how soon we will experience this state of oneness.

      Reply
  7. Actually, I have told the same story to my 4 year old son, and since I had done the homework on the story, I could explain it to him quite well. He did not take it in a negative way, because I took the trouble to explain the imbalance that was being created by Parvati’s son, and that the universe was at risk.

    This is so because a body made of only Shakti, lacking Shiva-tattva is against the law of Nature. When Lord Shiva struck his head off, and later on fixed an Elephant’s head, he took care and balanced the Shiva/Shakti elements. Thus, Ganesha was born. As pointed out by another person, the Elephant was one of Shiva’s greatest Bhakta, and wanted to always be close to Shiva. He got his wish as a result of his Karmas.

    However, I agree with Dr. Hebbar that one should do one’s homework before telling stories, not just because they might be violent, but also to ensure that we are able to transmit the right meaning to the child.

    Reply
  8. Hi,
    Reading this article, I felt it very creatively ridicules our famous Ganapathy story, and indirectly gives out a message not to attempt to say our religion’s great stories to our kids. It rather tells us to narrate some moral stories instead. Moral stories are great to tell the children(for eg, panchatantra) , but I would say we cant replace one by the other.

    The stories of Hinduism mostly are very abstract, needs deep understanding and are tightly coupled with principles of indian spirituality, which parents themselves (including me) dont understand many times or dont take the effort to understand what the story really means.

    A famous interpretation that makes sense in Ganeshji’s story is that “when our ego dies, God – realization happens”. To replace one’s small mind ( called ego, in this context, Ganeshji’s first head ) with a big mind ( egolessness, or advaita tatva, which in this context is Elephant head) is when moksha could be attained. So really there was no “physical body” which was murdered by beheading…it is removing of ones ego, to attain the supreme knowledge of the SELF. This is the hidden meaning of the story.

    So the story is far richer than many practical moral stories, but it can be narrated only when the child attains some age and understanding capability, like a teenager, may be.

    ONly this particular story of Ganeshji is little complex for kids, all other krishna stories for eg, are very valid, easily told and generated devotion in kids. It is absolutely required, along with the moral stories, moral stories are for teaching how to live a practical life, while vedic stories are for the upliftment of the soul. So please, all readers do not get discouraged by this article, there are many other stories even little toddlers can understand,…

    thanks

    Reply
    • Indeed. For example, noble and light stories like Krishna-Sudama can have lasting positive influences on the minds and hearts of children when they grow up, particularly when read along with pictures. All it takes is a few noble ideas/ideals (along with zealous protection against bad ones) to click and get lodged in a soul in order to take it down a good path in life.

      Amar Chitra Katha has a decent collection, and I really hope that conscientious publishers can join in to publish a lot more in this area for children.

      When children are too young to read for themselves, it can be enough to narrate easy/moral stories with the goal of instilling good values in them. Then they will automatically gravitate towards the heavier ‘religious’ stuff as they become capable of reading.

      One helpful thing is to have the books at the next step ready for them in the house just before they are ready to take that next step. And perhaps equally important, that parents themselves spend time reading them. Children learn most by what they see around them. If they see that their parents read the books, there is a good chance they will automatically pick them up too, and develop a habit without having to be told.

      Reply

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