Have you ever heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” When I was growing up, we would use that phrase over and over when other kids said mean things to us.
However, as an adult I know words have power and shape how we feel about ourselves.
When I was around seven years old, my two front teeth where large, as compared to my other teeth. The older people call my teeth “buck teeth.” The kids in my class would make fun of me and call me names like “Bucky Beaver.” They would make faces to look like a beaver when I would walk by.
Most of the time it didn’t bother me, until one day during recess. We were outside playing and my best friend made the “beaver face.” The other kids laughed and went on playing but I was devastated. How could my best friend be so mean?
After school, I went straight home and into my room to do my homework. When I got home my mother knew something was wrong. Why? Because I never came straight home after school. As my mother prepared dinner, I told her what happened at school. Without turning around my mother uttered the classic parental response, “honey it will be alright. Remember, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.”
I rolled my eyes (behind her back) and mimicked her as she was speaking. She ignored my behavior and explained teasing can hurt our feelings but I was made in God’s image.
My mother encouraged me to focus on being the best I could be and not to worry about what others thought about me. She also told to remember to treat others the way I wanted to be treated. Over the years of my childhood, with my mother’s help, I learned to be confident in who I am and to laugh at myself.
According to the Child Development Institute “the development of a positive self-concept or healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of children and teenagers.”
What are the benefits in youth developing a positive self-image?
- A major factor in determining success
- Builds confidence and self-respect
- Helps teens cope with emotional stress
- Acting independently
- Assuming ownership of choices
- Attempting new tasks and challenges
- Leads to greater academic success
Our words have impact, therefore we have the power to shape our children’s image of themselves. We must speak words of life into our children.
Descriptive praise and encouragement will instill confidence. Constructive feedback will help our youth understand the impact of choice and build their decision-making skills.
What steps will you take to help your child develop a positive self-image?
Dr. Kim Moore
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