We needed tough lessons as children. An occasional playground fight was expected as the norm, and if we complained to our mother that we were being teased, we were treated to this glorious aphorism: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” My mom used to say that all the time, one of the seemingly endless adages she had at her disposal to deal with any of life’s problems. To this day I think long and hard about the practical application that dogma had on my life.
The idea that you could actually choose whether or not to be hurt by words: that was huge for me. Even though it has been repeated ad nauseam for generations, “sticks and stones” really is a powerful bit of philosophy to a kid. That’s one of the great things about being a parent: you can spout nothing but clichés, and yet, to your child, you come off as one of the great thinkers in Western culture.
–Excerpt from MEAN DADS FOR A BETTER AMERICA, by Tom Shillue. Available from Harper Collins Publishers June 6th