Ep 37: Teach Lessons Using Stories

Ep 37: Teach Lessons Using Stories

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Episode Summary

Paul Smith is the author of three books: Parenting with a Story, Lead with a Story, and Sell with a Story. On this episode, he reveals how to tell teens stories that teach them important lessons about life. He also shares a few of his favorite parenting stories that you can steal and tell to your own kids.

Full Show Notes

You may have noticed this, parent. There’s something hard about teaching important lessons to teenagers: they don’t want to listen to their parents lecture about ANYTHING. Also, because of their high need for autonomy, teens often feel strongly compelled to do the exact opposite of whatever their parents suggest (even when you aren’t in lecture-mode).

To be effective with teenagers, you have to be a little more subtle. Teaching lessons to teens works best when you let the teenager “discover” the answer for themself.

When you can accomplish this Jedi mind trick, your teen will no longer question you, push back, and resist your help. They will come to you first to talk through their problems (NOT to get “advice” — they don’t need that).

But how can you teach lessons to teenagers without them feeling like you are teaching them a lesson?

Easy: just tell the perfect story at the perfect time in the perfect way. Then simply let the teen realize the moral of the story on their own.


Paul Smith has spent years studying exactly how to do that and he has written three incredible books about it: Lead with a Story, Parenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

He has interviewed hundreds of successful people all over the world and collected the most impactful stories from their lives. He’s also analyzed the times when great leaders tell stories to inspire, motivate, or instruct, and he has carefully measured what works and what doesn’t work.

In our interview, Paul told me 8 simple steps to turn any vivid memory from your past into a sizzling story that will teach your teenager a valuable life lesson.

Finally, he gave me some of his personal favorite parenting stories. These are one’s he’s used with his own son and they are really powerful. In one story, Paul learns an important lesson about what it means to be a man by watching his dad eat a quiche. It’s great!

The 32-minute public version is free to listen to, and the 42-minute extended version, packed with extra goodies, is reserved for site members. Log in or sign up to access everything our site has to offer!

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen

1.  How to redirect your teen when they miss the ‘point’ of something you said:

“Well, that’s one way to look at it. And I thought about that too. But I drew a different conclusion from it. Let me tell you what that is…”

-Paul Smith

2.  What to say when your teen tells you that something crumby happened:

(Members Only)

Workbook Exercises

Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview

1.  Finding the right stories to tell:

Stories are one of the most powerful ways of teaching important lessons to teenagers, but most parents don’t tell their kids many because we can’t always think of the perfect story to tell at the perfect time. Plus, not all of us live crazy exciting lives filled with great stories. Thankfully, storytelling expert Paul Smith developed this exercise to help get the juices flowing. Use it to generate a list of 10-20 killer stories you can have in your back pocket to tell your teenager whenever they need to learn a certain lesson.

To start, think of a time that you learned an important lesson, perhaps in an unexpected way. What happened? Jot it down. Next, think about times in your life when you made a huge mistake or let someone down. What happened? You can also try thinking about any vivid childhood memories where you felt terrible about something you did. Write these down too.

Paul says the best stories usually involve a lesson being learned and either something surprising happening or a strong emotional experience. Write down as many of these ideas as you can think of. You can also gather story ideas from your teenager’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other adults or heroes in their lives.

Once you have a long list, move on to the next exercise, which will help you tell the stories for maximum impact.

2.  Telling the stories right:

(Members Only)

About Paul Smith

One of the world’s leading experts in business storytelling, Paul is one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers of 2018, a storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Sell with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Lead with a Story. Paul is also a former consultant at Accenture and former executive and 20-year veteran of The Procter & Gamble Company.

As part of his research on the effectiveness of storytelling, Paul has personally interviewed over 250 CEOs, executives, leaders, and salespeople in 25 countries, documenting over 2,000 individual stories. Leveraging those stories and interviews, Paul identified the components of effective storytelling, and developed templates and tools to apply them in practice. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Time, Forbes, Fast Company, The Washington Post, PR News, Success Magazine, and London’s Financial Times, among others.

Paul delivers professional workshops and keynote addresses on effective storytelling for leaders and salespeople. His clients include international giants like Hewlett Packard, Google, Ford Motor Company, Bayer Medical, Abbott, Novartis, Progressive Insurance, Kaiser Permanente, and Procter & Gamble.

Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in economics, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives with his wife and two sons in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio.

Find Paul on FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram or on his website.