"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." When I was little that rhyme was the big, bad, powerful statement we used to ward off the vicious attacks of other kids.
That rhyme gave us power but didn't protect us from the sting of the words. It didn't stop the ugly words from sinking in and taking root. It didn't stop those words from becoming the way we saw ourselves or from imagining it was the way others saw us, too.
What got me thinking about this was a parent-child interaction I witnessed this week in the grocery store, and this Circle of Moms conversation about basic needs for healthy relationships, in which a member named Nancy R. shared the thought that "The emotional hurt may be hidden from others, but it plays on your mind, heart, and soul."
If you remember the sting of mean words spoken to you as a child, why would you ever label your kids in ways that could be hurtful to them? I'm not talking about labels like "autistic" or "sensory seeking"; I'm talking about calling your child "sloppy," "liar," "stupid," "awful," etc.
Do parents who do this believe that labeling their child will change something about them or help correct a behavior? Can that ever work?
Here's the real-life incident that caused me to wonder about this question.