You know the old rhyme! “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Most kids are taught that one early on in childhood when they have their first experience with name calling. “Mommy, Janie called me a poopy-head!” “Well dear, it’s just a word and as you know, sticks and stones, sticks and stones.” There are others we had too, like “I’m rubber, you’re glue! Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!” That one was always bizarre and never really made much sense as a comeback, almost as weird as this exchange: “You’re a poopyhead”, said Mikey. “I know you are, but what am I”, retorted Billy. What? I know you are but what am I? What does that even mean and why do we continue to perpetuate these comebacks when they don’t really deal with the bigger issue at hand. Words can and do hurt! I mean, ok, someone calling you a poopyhead isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things, but there are plenty of harmful words out there that are sometimes used against our children and we are doing them a disservice if we don’t equip them with the tools to handle them. Namely sticks and stones! I’m kidding!!!! Physical violence is never an answer. What I’m getting at though, and what’s super important, is validating your child’s hurt if they come home sad because someone called them “stupid” or “fat” or “ugly” or a “prude” or a “loser” or a “geek” or a “nerd.” What doesn’t work is telling your child that the perpetrator didn’t mean it, or they’re only saying those things because they’re jealous, for example. What your child needs is for you to recognize that no matter what was said to them, they are feeling hurt by it and they need to know that it’s ok to feel hurt. It’s dialogue waiting to happen! “Mom, Timmy called me stupid today in the yard.” “Oh honey! That sounds awful. You seem upset, and that’s totally understandable. Do you want to talk about it?” You can even take it a step further and use the incident to teach some compassion. Talk to your child about what might make “Timmy” want to call other kids hurtful names. Maybe even suggest that “Timmy” might have been having a hard day or tough times at home, and that usually name-calling is a reaction to something deeper going on inside the perpetrator. Sure this might be going a little deep, (and “Timmy” might just be a grade-A jerk) but you can likely gauge what shape your child is in and how much they need from you. It might be enough for them to just hear you say “yeah, that probably sucked a whole lot and I’m sorry it happened.” Bottom line, and this is for any situation, not just when your kids are hurt but when anyone expresses their hurt, validate, validate, validate!!!