“I’m Rubber and You’re Glue” is Pure Genius
As a child, I knew exactly what to do whenever one of the kids on the school playground called me a name. Although I lacked the courage to reply, I had been taught to at least say to myself, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” While I was rearing my own children, I learned a much better response to ridicule. It went like this: “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”
I realize this rhyming retort is rather juvenile. Obviously, it isn’t the sort of thing one would sing-song-say at a meeting of the board of directors. Even so, there is more wisdom to it than the sticks-and-stones saying.
It’s funny how I can so vividly recall adults trying to diffuse conflict by saying “sticks and stones . . . sticks and stones” to any child who was the victim of a verbal attack. I’m certain they were just trying to prevent an all-out fight. They were probably also trying to prevent producing a generation of cry babies.
All this is understandable. Yet, the truth is name calling can be just as hurtful — and even more so — than being physically assaulted. Oftentimes it is the scars of emotional abuse that are the most difficult to overcome. Not only that, but when children are told not to be hurt by something that is intrinsically hurtful, they can grow up into adults who are disconnected from their true feelings.
“I’m rubber and you’re glue” solves all these problems in one fell swoop. The rubber part provides a great reminder to protect ourselves by putting up a deflector shield against whatever insults are thrown our way. The glue part reminds us that unkind words reveal much more about the person speaking them than the person they are spoken to.
As a result, it paves the way for children to become adults with healthy boundaries. It also teaches them how to avoid taking things personally. After all, if everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you, then you are the one with the problem — not me.
In my mind, “I’m rubber and you’re glue” is pure genius. I wish I had learned it back when I was a child. Since I didn’t, I’m making up for it now by keeping it close at hand. I know better than to say it aloud in adult circles, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it in my head when the situation warrants it.
Next time you are tempted to feel insulted, give it a try. Sing-song-say it to yourself. When you do, you’ll bounce right back!
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