Putting a label on your child’s actions can be devastating for the child. Here is the science behind labels and why we should avoid using them.
Let’s pretend you’re in charge of planning a dinner party, a family gathering, a church benefit, a client meeting, a mini-conference… Take your time and find something that works for you.
You’re ecstatic about being in charge of the project. You’re also a little concerned about how everything will end out.
You go into your co-event-planners’ office one day and overhear them whispering – “She’s so dictatorial” (or “He’s such a tyrant”) before they notice you’re there and change the subject.
You’re very certain they were referring to you.
What would be your attitude in the future? Would you be as enthusiastic as you were before? Do you have any reservations about how you’re going about addressing the situation? Maybe you should tone back some of your big plans?
Or perhaps you’d push folks a little more just to make a point?
Let’s take a look at the problem from the other side… What if you overheard someone say, “She (or He) is so cool and knows how to get things done?”
What would your mindset be now that the project is moving forward?
Essentially, the terms “bossy” and “dictator” refer to someone who is attempting to get things done. However, because these labels have a negative meaning, they leave a bad taste in your mouth and make it difficult for you to remain passionate about the endeavour.
Let us now leave this imaginary scenario and take a peek inside our own houses.
How many times a day do we give our children unflattering labels?
“Just take a look at Jessica… She’s completely covered in chocolate! What am I going to do with this slob of a kid?”
“Johnny forgot to put the cap on his marker and left it on the sofa! Take a look at that blemish! What a wild child!”
“Once again, I was late for work! Sarah is such a slug… When is that kid going to realize the meaning of time?”
And I could go on and on. Some of it isn’t meant to be “labels,” but it sticks — if not in the mind of the child who overheard it, then in the mind of the child who overheard it.
I’m not trying to be cruel. We don’t want to scare our kids. We don’t even aware we’re doing it most of the time.
Yet it may have a tremendous influence on your children’s behavior for the rest of the day, and perhaps for the rest of his or her life if a label stays!
Returning to the hypothetical event planning scenario, if your co-event-planners view you as “bossy” or “dictator,” they are less likely to feel inspired to collaborate with you to put on a fantastic event. On the other hand, if people believe you are a true “leader” capable of pulling off a great event, they would likely rush to assist you in getting there.
We parents are in the same boat.
How we treat our children is influenced by the labels we apply to them. If we view people through the prism of negative labels, we are more inclined to be judgmental of their behavior. We are in a better position to be their champions and cheerleaders when we look at them through the prism of positive labels.
In other words, what we say matters – not just to our children, but also to others… and to ourselves. The labels we pick, intentionally or unconsciously, may have a significant influence on how we parent and how our children see themselves.
How Negative Labels Make Us Feel
Labels are indelible. You stick them on envelopes, hoping that the label will stay on the outside until the package is delivered. If the envelope is to be reused, the label is frequently difficult to remove.
Labels have a voice. What’s stated on the label provides crucial information about the contents of the container. Only the most important details are supplied.
Labels are expensive. The price varies depending on the size, shape, and quantity of items ordered. The cost is rarely, if ever, decreased.
Labels provide a good purpose when used as mentioned above. They still serve a purpose when linked to humans, particularly children’s, but sticking, speaking, and costing can have a negative influence. Take a look at the list of adjectives that are commonly used to label children’s.
Reading through these may bring back memories of labels that were placed on you as a child. You might remember hearing or even screaming one of these titles in your house. These epiphanies might be humiliating.
Negative labels are difficult for parents as well. We feel bad for parents who think of their children via these negative terms.
- Concerns for the children’s future
- Uncertainty over what we should do to “correct” the issue
- Resentment directed at the kid for failing to satisfy cultural standards
- It’s a shame that we messed up in some way.
- Embarrassment in front of others because of our children’s behavior
- Exhaustion from having to deal with it on a daily basis Anger at how the situation ended out
So, what are our options?
To begin, we may reimagine such labels in a more positive light. When children hear positive terms used to refer to them, they will respond positively. When we think of our children positively, we are better prepared to deal with the challenges that life throws at us.
As a result, a lovely little positive feedback cycle is set in action.
Effects Of Labels
Let’s look at how labelling affects a children’s mental well-being and establishing connections.
- Labels are indelibly imprinted on the minds of children’s.
- Children are “in the midst of something.” Every day, they gather knowledge about themselves. They do not have a positive self-image from birth. In this sector, parents play a critical role. Parents serve as “psychologicalal mirrors,” reflecting what you wish to “stick” to your children.
Stop The Labeling
It’s not always easy to get rid of labels. But it’s never too late to make a change, to see the influence of labels, to recognize a negative picture you may have of your child, and to strive to “re-frame” that image.
Make sure the phrases you use are ones you want to have on your wall and say to your kids. Finally, consider the cost of the messages you send your children so that as they get older, the words they take with them will be ones that encourage and support them as they face the challenges ahead.
Labels communicate with children.
Labels send messages to children that limit them to a specific role or behavior. A kid who is constantly branded “bad” or “a troublemaker” will believe she is, and will act accordingly. In her belief system, a route begins to emerge that convinces her that this is who she is.
Even positive titles like “princess,” “king,” “beautiful,” or “baby” might encourage a kid to feel that they are entitled to special treatment on a daily basis. When requested to clean her room, “Princess” may reject, claiming that it is too much effort and that it should be done for her by someone else.
Children pay a price for labels.
According to psychologist Haim Ginott, “labelling could be debilitating even when it’s pleasurable.” Labels can harm parent-child relationships because parents learn to perceive their kid solely through the lens of the label over time. It’s as if a single word could perfectly define a complicated child.
“Candice is a jerk all the time. It’s preferable if you keep your distance from her.”
Parents’ capacity to recognize their children’s entire potential might be limited, limiting their challenges for them to grow.
Labels that read “live on.” They’re difficult to get rid of.
Tommy, a four-year-old who has been called “dumb” by his parents, may take that label into his friendships and be treated as such during their playtimes. “It is frequently easier for a child to cling to his old self-defeating habits because they are at least known to him,” Ginott says.
What if Jason ‘Tommy’s parents praised him for using bright colors to depict a fall landscape in a preschool art project? Jason may get a chance to evaluate his talents in a more favourable light.
Instead of carrying a debilitating label for the rest of the year, Tommy’s parents might use phrases like “That’s what I call creative!” to characterize his behavior and choices and grow his character. Tommy along with his family and friends will soon have a new “image of himself!”
Praise that is descriptive
Tommy’s parents utilized a kind of communication known as “descriptive praising.” It could be used by parents, teachers, and other people who wish to help a kid to grow without labels. Other ways this could be utilized as a “label remover” are listed below.
“You remembered your lunch before you left home!” I say to a “forgetful” child. That’s a good example of accountability.”
“You got half of your room tidied up,” I say to a “lazy” child. All of those garments have been stuffed back into drawers or hung in the closet. That’s what I call tenacity!”
Other suggestions for assisting a child in developing a new self-image
Allow a child to overhear you making a favourable comment about him. “Without Samuel, I wouldn’t have been able to complete all of my tasks. He helped me reorganise the computer space for an hour. He was really helpful.”
Model the behavior you want to see in others. When Johnny shouts at his sister, Dad says calmly, “You need to communicate to your sister what is upsetting you.” Let me see if I can assist you in finding the right words.”
Be a safe haven for your children’s precious memories. “Fred, I remember last year when you believed you’d never hit a pitch and were ready to quit the team because you didn’t think you’d ever hit a pitch. You went to second base against one of the other team’s finest pitchers the next game.”
It’s not always easy to get rid of labels. But it’s never too late to make a change, to see the influence of labels, to recognise a negative picture you may have of your child, and to strive to “re-frame” that image.
Make sure the phrases you use are ones you want to have on your wall and say to your kids.
Finally, consider the cost of the messages you send your children so that as they get older, the words they take with them will be ones that encourage and support them as they face the challenges ahead.