Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me

Think back to when you were in elementary school or junior high. Did you have a nickname? Did it make you feel good or bad? What about your hair? Was it in style? Could you dress like you wanted? Did you make the team you tried out for? Did you struggle to make friends? What about your complexion or teeth? Were you self-conscious about either? Did you feel happy with yourself and attractive? Or did you feel awkward and shy? Were you too short? Maybe you felt too tall. Did anyone ever say something that really hurt? I bet you can remember it right now. Those small “meaningless” words have a way of hanging out right on our hearts.

As a child I remember hearing someone say the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, I know how far from the truth that is.

For most of us, our imperfections revealed themselves to us as we were growing up. Most likely we experienced the sting of hurtful words. It’s a little thing, right?  Often times it’s easy to forget how difficult high school, junior high and even elementary school can be.  Words can heal. They can move us to love, to smile and to laugh. And they can deeply wound — moving us to tears, and pain and anguish.  The Bible says in Proverbs 16:24 (NIV) that, Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

But it also says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, ……” Proverbs 18:21.

So what can we do when our children come home upset because they were left out or made fun of by their peers?


The most important thing a parent can do is listen and affirm. The Bible tells us in Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) that God created us and we are wonderfully made.

Psalm 139: 13-14 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Our children need to know we love them unconditionally. They need to know we are their biggest fan and that we believe in them. If we have confidence in them; they will have confidence in themselves.

Second, we have to assure them that this difficult time will pass. Sometimes, children have trouble seeing a hard time ending. But it will end. The Bible is so rich with promises from the one who designed them to be who they are.

In Psalm 30:5 (NIV) it says, “……..weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

While things may be difficult; they will not always be. God promises us that while we may be heart-broken and sad; things will not always be so.

When my children were younger and upset, I would softly say, “sunshine.” I would continue repeating it till I got a smile and laugh out of them. It was something my mom and dad had said to me when I was a child. The more they would say it, the more difficult it became to be upset. Sometimes, just laughing with our children helps to heal the heaviness in their hearts.

Third, be proactive and know what is happening with their cell phones and social media connections. Be aware of who is texting them. Know what is happening on facebook or twitter. For some children, home ceases to be a refuge because the teasing continues via social media once they get home.  

Helping our children develop the social skills to deal with hurtful words is important. However, there are times when they may need our help and our intervention. If your child begins to withdraw and doesn’t want to participate in life, pay attention and intervene.

Last of all, pray. Pray for them. Pray with them and pray without ceasing. It is our biggest weapon against the enemy. Pray and then pray some more.

Sherry Shepherd is an experienced, adaptable professional specialized in writing for faith-based organizations. She has worked as an editor and writer for newspaper, movie guides, publishing houses, churches and several non-profits. Her scope of work includes corporate and fundraising materials, advertising, web, brochures, booklets, books, blogs and biblical training materials. However, her heart is drawn to any type of creative writing, where she can motivate while conveying a biblical message and telling a story. Sherry is the mother of three grown children, who have been the source of some of her greatest joy, laughter and material!