Sticks and Stones is a Farce
Have you ever heard the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” To be totally honest, I am not even sure that kids these days even hear this, but I know my generation sure did. It was engrained into us from a very young age. It was the parental guardian’s answer to a child any time that they had hurt feelings over something that had been said to them. I remember having to repeat it time and time again when another child said something hurtful. I remember hearing my friends repeat it alongside their parents when they had been told something mean by one of their friends.
This is not about the choice to take offense or not when someone has hurt our feelings. This is about the message that we are sending our children. The message that was loud and clear in my generation.
So what is that message? What are we telling our children? The conceptual idea that words don’t cause physical harm to our bodies makes sense. So why are we only concerned about the aspect of being physically harmed? Somehow our feelings are only warranted if we have experienced physical harm that can be detected by the naked eye. If we had a bruise, bump, or scrape, maybe even a broken nose that would validate the feelings that come along with physical harm.
In my experience the impact that words can have stays much longer than a bruise. The impact hovers around years after the break has healed. I see the impact that words have had on my clients lives on a daily basis. When we say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” as children we are learning that our feelings are not valid, that the pain that we feel is not warranted, it is not real because words do not have the ability to inflict pain. So why are we feeling that pain? Instead we are being told that we just need to suck it up and move on. Get over it. Telling someone to “get over it,” does not make the pain go away, it only tells that child that they are not good enough unless they can quickly get over a verbal assault. We are also learning that we can not go to our parents when our feelings have been hurt for compassion and an adults eye on how to process our freshly hurt feelings. We learn that we had better have some sort of bodily harm, before we even think about discussing feelings with adults.
What we don’t know as children are the coping techniques that would have helped us process our feelings about being called a name. We are assuming adult level of comprehension and responsibility for our young children. We are avoiding the very conversation that was avoided with us when we were that age and in the same circumstances. And for Pete’s sake, don’t tell them that they still have to be friends with someone who repeatedly calls them names. Do you want to set them up to be strong enough to take verbal abuse, or would you rather them be able to identify it and know that it is wrong? That they may in turn choose not to act in the same manner? Don’t get them used to taking hits, because they need to grow up fast so you don’t have to have the conversation.
Modern psychology tells us that there is a definite 3 cycle generation. Three generations. If I am unable to change my own thought process about how I approach a topic, then my grandchildren will also suffer the same, if not more in any given area. If I change my thought process and replace the negative with a positive thought pattern, I am ensuring a positive outcome in this area for the next 2 generations. I am going to keep coming back to this 3 generation cycle. We don’t know what we have not been taught, what our parents have not been taught. You can not give what is not yours. If you own a coping mechanism, then give that. Don’t continue to freely give out the Sticks and Stones mentality knowing that there is actual sufferable damage that can come with words. We have learned a simple practice over the past few weeks together. Give that process to your children. Show them an effective way to process hateful words.
When you know your child has had their feelings hurt, even when it is accidental, come down to their level and look them in the eye. Let them know that you have had your feelings hurt before and that you found a way to process those feelings. Then, at the first possibility that you have to sit down side by side and write down what was said to your child, do that together. If a friend called them ugly, write that word down on the paper. Tell them what that word means because they may not have even heard that word yet. Cross it out, because we know that is not true. Tell them why that is not true. Write beautiful, stunning, captivating beside it and give them full ownership of the positive word that it is truth. Next week we will be talking about mirror affirmations and the impact that they can have on both children and adults. When we work on these things together, we are on the offense to fight for our right to break that 3 generational cycle.
Photography Credit Kathleen Stevens
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