Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That was what we were all told growing up, chanted over and over again in the playground and reinforced at home. If someone is calling you names or saying unkind things, simply ignore it and don’t let it upset you. But let’s face it, that’s a load of old rubbish, isn’t it?


Because the fact of the matter is, words can hurt. And they can hurt very badly and leave scars which may never heal. I remember once seeing a post about a teacher who gave her class a piece of brand new white paper each. She told them to screw it up, stamp on it, make it dirty, whatever they liked but to keep it in one piece. Then she told them to un-crumple it and lay it out flat. Did it look different? Was there any way to make it look exactly like it looked when it was first given to them? Of course not. What had been done to it could not be undone and I believe words have the potential to have the same effect on a person.


I recently told my children about Richard Branson. I heard an interview with him once when his response to the question – ‘how do you become a millionaire’, was ‘you take a billionaire who loses millions and millions on his fascination with Space, and he ends up a millionaire!’


My oldest son laughed when I told him this but I went on to explain that Richard Branson believes that within our lifetimes, people will be able to take holidays to Space. When I explained that, if we can put one person in Space, in theory, there is no reason why we couldn’t put a planeload of people up there, my son completely came round to Richard’s way of thinking, agreeing that actually, this was a brilliant idea and yes, completely logical that it was achievable. Oh, and where could he sign up to be on the plane Space-bound?


That initial laughter was exactly what I needed from him to make my point. ‘You laugh because you think he has a silly idea. That’s ok. On one hand, it is a silly idea and you are not the only one who has laughed at him for it. But perhaps the reason why Richard Branson is so successful is that actually, he genuinely doesn’t care what people think. He doesn’t care if people think he is silly to pursue such an idea. He doesn’t care if people tell him he is wasting his money (which incidentally he has earned himself so it’s his to do with as he pleases!) He doesn’t care because he is different and he knows he is different and that is why he is special. And if people mock him, that’s up to them but it doesn’t affect him or his choices.’


So in our house, the motto is no longer Sticks and Stones. It’s what would Richard do? Would Richard take it to heart and let it get him down? Or would he continue down his own path because he knows that it is the right journey for him. Be inspired and take strength from someone who themselves is different. Of course, as a parent, we have to top up the ‘Richard-factor’ now and again, but I hope that my team will remember that being different is ok and that words and mocking, whilst might sting a little, may also be the reason we all end up in Space one day!

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Sally Hall is mum to four delicious little people, a wife, businesswoman and author. Her debut children's book is Down in the Den.

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