Why “Sticks-and-Stones” is Equal if Not More Important

Parents who promote resilience provide critical lifelong lessons. When our kids come of age, they will be better prepared to tackle the bullies of the world.

During the prelude to World War Two, when Hitler was occupying neighboring territories and breaking treaties, can you imagine what would have happened if a hero stepped in to face the bully?

What if Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and was required to address Hitler’s incursion into Czechoslovakia in 1938? Instead, a pacifist named Neville Chamberlain sipped tea with his future adversary and he succumbed to the whims of a tyrant.

Here’s another example: Billie Jean King. She fought in tandem with her fellow female tennis players, for equal pay and recognition in the 60s and 70s. She was a maverick who questioned the status quo, the ‘good ole’ boy’ establishment who placed women one step below on the pedestal of sports.

Can you imagine what would have happened if she cried to the media and begged for sympathy, in an anti-bullying effort against male players and the USTA management?

No one would have cared. No one would have listened. Society’s attention span dims considerably when whiners take the stage. It was resilience and a commitment to equality that won the day for Billie Jean King and her cohorts. She earned it, especially when she whooped Bobby’s Riggs’ ass in the ‘Battle of the Sexes.’ That’s worthy of respect.

Life isn’t fair. As parents, our goal should be to insulate our kids for a decent amount of time when they’re young and then provide the tools they need to excel. ‘Sticks and stones’ is more applicable than ever, due in part to the significant efforts communities and schools are making to reduce bullying.

I commend anyone who makes an effort to reduce bullying, but let’s not ‘kid’ ourselves. Our children will have to manage challenging bosses, our daughters will encounter sexual harassment and there will always be someone who has a chip on their shoulder. Those who do so, as adults, will be the bullies our children have to face in the workplace, within parenting associations, perhaps within our families and maybe in the legal system itself.

That makes ‘sticks and stones’ more applicable than ever. If your child’s first response, when they face a verbal tirade from a fellow Kindergartener, is to shudder and cry for help, what message does that send?

If that 2nd-grade girl calls your 1st-grade son a dirty pig, and your kid is offended, how are you going to respond as a parent? Are you seriously going to ring the anti-bullying alarm and alert the authorities every time or are you going to emphasize the value of resilience?

When did opinions become just as dangerous as sticks and stones?

They are not. Opinions represent a point of view, and your child will be better prepared when they cite the memorized response – “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

If you really care and want to tamp down bullying in the schoolyard, why not make your child an advocate for resilience? Can you imagine what would happen if a dozen kids in your child’s class promoted resilience as their first response? The bullies would have no one else to bother beside themselves: good riddance!

And when your child encounters one as an adult, whether in politics, the sports world, the boardroom or in social settings, they will be better prepared.

That’s the ultimate measure of a parent.

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