We give great thought and read much about the harm or good we can do to children by our words. We have the power to create good or bad memories. And yet, the very words which did either harm or good are seldom remembered by us. We can be either mentor or tormentor.
The particular sensibility of the child has much to do with it of course. The ability to absorb praise and encouragement and discard critism is an important factor. Several middle-aged men of my acquaintance have lived their lives having missed a positive relationship with their fathers. In each case it has been the father who has fallen short in this relationship with one another, at least in in the man’s recollection of childhood. We spend much time speculating the reason for this, yet the feeling persists that they have not been loved by their fathers.
We have just teceived a disturbing letter from a man whom we have known since his childhood, in which he discussed at length the failures of his own late father in his personal relationship to him. He tells of how pleased and excited he was when Dr. Advice and I came to visit occasionally and took a real interest in both him and his brother. I don’t even remember some of the small incidents he related, and yet they obviously meant a lot to him. His brother, on the other hand, though harboring the same resentment against the father, has been able to bury those feelings like water off a duck’s back.
Yes, we need to be VERY careful how we handle these tender childhood sensibilities.