The Parable of the Parable
By Rodney Rountree
(from "God is Still Speaking: Parables for Today")
A teacher sought to help her children learn that it is wrong to lie. She could have simply told them that lying is wrong and that they would be punished if they were caught. Instead she told them this story:
Two kittens were each given a sardine as a special treat by their mother. When the mother left, one kitten ate his sardine while another went to get a drink. While his sister was away, the first kitten finished his sardine and, still being hungry, ate his sister’s sardine too. When his sister returned, she asked her brother where her sardine was. The brother was ashamed that he ate her sardine and was afraid he would be punished, so he lied. “A big dog came and stole it” he exclaimed! His sister cried and ran to tell her mother. The terrified mother came running back with the father. “Are you all right? Where is the dog” they exclaimed! Well the little kitten did not know what to say. Now he was really frightened. “He, he ran over to the neighbor’s yard” he finally stammered. “Stay here,” the father said. “I’ll go warn the neighbors.” Soon the little kitten was surrounded by worried adults with lots of questions. “What did the dog look like? Have you seen him before?” It was all too much for the little kitten and he finally admitted the truth. “There was no dog” he cried in anguish. “I made it up because I ate my sister’s sardine”. Of course the parents were upset with their kitten. They explained to him that he had done a bad thing and had him say he was sorry to his sister, to them, and to all the neighbors. But of course, they told him they still loved him and said it was brave of him to admit the truth.
After the teacher finished telling the story, she asked the children what they thought, and they discussed why the kitten lied and what the consequences were. In this way, each child learned for themselves why lying is wrong. And they remembered it.
Lesson: One of the most effective ways to teach is to use a story to help people come to a conclusion on their own. This is especially effective because the idea is not forced upon them, but comes out of their own thought processes. It’s also important because people don’t just accept an idea because of the person telling them about it. They accept it because it makes sense to them.
(Editorial comment: this parable is a little tongue n cheek, but a lot of people ask why Jesus taught using parables. I think this illustrates one of the main reasons he did)