Labels are such a great way to put things in boxes if that’s what you want to do. However, when it comes to our children or us, labels can certainly get in the way.
When it comes to children, the labels we often use can have a powerful impact. For example, when we call our children outgoing, shy, or bad, these are words that might stick with them and have a much larger impact than we intended them to have. These labels can get even more potent when our children suffer from depression, anxiety, fear, and worry.
These powerful words and experiences that so many people are battling within childhood need to be used carefully. Labels are helpful to bring more understanding of our child and their particular needs. When my kids were young, I remember hearing professionals throwing around various terms and labels that created anxiety, fear, and worry. However, when the “label” was presented with compassion and kindness and in reference to a plan to move forward, this same panic wasn’t present.
In my own parenting and experiences, one of my children had been offered a number of labels as she moved through her teen years. These labels were used to understand her behavior and the experiences she was having as well as us, her parents. I admit that it was helpful to know that something was going on with my child, but, looking back, I tried very hard not to focus on the actual label, but more so the information that it offered me and the advice on how to address and care for the baggage that came with the label.
Today, labels are used so often in raising our children. We must be careful not to hold the label so tightly, so we can see the child for who they are, not the label as the child. If a child is shy, the more attention we bring to it, the less the child will step outside of this label. Not only will everyone be focused on that label, but, the label can also have a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. If we want to help our child be less of a particular label, the first step is to use the label less and focus on your awareness of how to help this particular label.
Our children are not defined by their labels. They are human beings with various qualities and characteristics that might, for some, require a different approach or type of attention. Learning more can never hurt, but living in these labels can be truly detrimental. Let’s allow our children to live without feeling labeled or defined. Let’s help them be outside a box. Let’s let them define themselves. What does that look like in your family?
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