This statement is both true and false: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The first part is true however; the second part is clearly false. Words do have power and bad words do hurt. Have you ever spoken words out of anger and the next moment you wish you could grab them out of the air and shove them back into your mouth? Unfortunately, those words can’t be called back. They simply do the damage they were intended to do.
It happens all of the time in various situations and in all kinds of relationships. My purpose here, is to address how what we say and do can contribute to breaking our children and ultimately, dismantling their future.
To delve into what I mean by “the breaking of a child”–spiritually, mentally and emotionally, let’s take a closer look at the 10 Commandments: Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, recognize the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy, thou shall not covet, and so on. But there is one commandment with a condition and that is, “Honor thy father and mother so that your days may be long.”
Some scholars believe that implies when a person dishonors their mother and father their days will be shortened. There is no way to prove that as fact because only God knows how many days each of us has to live in this mortal realm. But the question remains: Why would God attach a condition to that commandment–and only that commandment?
I also ask: What roles do we, as parents, play in teaching and even helping our children understand that commandment – and keep it?
Parents who use profanity and call the other parent bad names in front of their children are teaching them to disrespect and dishonor that parent just as they themselves are doing. That’s damage to the child; damage parents can control.
Herein lays the proverbial “breaking” point. Consider this true story: As children, when we misbehaved, my mother would send us to the woods to get a switch (a stick) for her to use to discipline us. There are two things I can remember like it was yesterday, 1) the whipping always hurt, and 2) eventually, the switch always broke.
When one parent uses their child as a pawn (or a whipping switch) to “whip” the other parent by denying visitation or refusing to pay child support because they have been denied visitation, the whipping does hurt the other parent. And, eventually, just like the switch Mom used to spank us with back in the day broke, so does the child. Often, we can detect that “breaking” later in that child’s life as they get into trouble for disrespecting and dishonoring their parents, their teachers and other authority figures.
Just as the proverbial sticks hurt, so do a parent’s words and that leads us to another “breaking of a child” point. One time is too often for parents to “name call” and use hurtful language and profanity to describe their child and or their child’s behavior. The result, for children of all ages, can be characteristics such as low self-esteem and because they are the victim of bullying at home, they themselves become the bully at school. It can also cause our children to withdraw from family, school and community, and that can destroy important bonding, education and support they need to succeed. So, yes, be it sticks and stones, or words, it is damage that can be controlled by nurturing, caring, and aware parents. And it takes two.
By definition, damage control is “an attempt to correct or rectify a situation that has gone wrong.” Parents, let’s get this right. Let’s take control of the sticks, stones and words we use that damage our children at our own hands and mouths. Now that is damage we can control.
© Copyright 2014 Glen Warren/Fathers Forever. All Rights Reserved