We’ve all heard the childhood nursery rhyme: “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How insane is that statement?!

Words do hurt. Words can always hurt. In fact, I think words hurt and stick with us far more than physical hurts do. – Dr. Michelle Watson

Think back to words that were spoken to you as a kid by the bully down the street, by your dad when he was angry at the end of a long day, by a coach who highlighted how you messed up, by the girl who wouldn’t go out with you, and on it goes. Words stick with us long after they’re spoken. Words stick with us for years, often decades.

Here is a story that illustrates the long-term impact of words:

“My mom grew up with an angry father and she lived most of her life in fear of him. When she was 16 and was learning to drive, it was her dad who taught her to drive on narrow country roads. To this day, in her late 70’s, she still believes she isn’t a good driver because her dad’s voice is ringing in her head telling her that she has a ‘lead foot’. Though these words were spoken over 50 years ago they still hold her hostage today.”

Sometimes we’re on the receiving end of hurtful words and sometimes we’re on the giving end. Sometimes we remember what we have said that hurt someone else and sometimes we don’t. The fact is that the person who remembers the longest is the one who heard the
words, not the one who spoke them.

This is why it’s important to talk out the internalized messages that we’ve heard so they can be clarified, cleaned out, and talked out. Then hopefully when amends are made, forgiveness can take place. Forgiveness essentially means letting go, and until we know what we’ve said that has stayed lodged in someone’s head and heart, we can’t make it right. And until we’ve made it right they oftentimes can’t let it go.

When it comes to your kids, this process of asking them about any word wounds you may have caused will allow for honesty and clarity so that healing can happen for both you and them.

As each question is asked and then answered, listen through the whole response before adding your thoughts. It’s important not to be defensive but to acknowledge that their hurt is there. Once you have heard their responses thoroughly, make it right and ask forgiveness from a tender heart space. Then state your positive truth about them now in the present.

It’s never too late to put current truth into the place where the hurt has been. This will go a long way towards their healing!

Check out Dr. Michelle Watson-Canfield’s books about dad-daughter relationship:

“Dad, Here’s what I really need from you”

“Let’s Talk” – Conversation starters for dads and daughters.


Dr. Michelle Watson Canfield

Michelle is a national speaker, counselor, author and founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month educational forum for dads of daughters ages 13 to 30 in Portland, Oregon. www.drmichellewatson.com

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