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Why do we label our kids?
Henry is a wonderfully spirited,
However, of late, when we have been out and about or at other mums and children’s
I believe that children will become what we tell them they are. In a nutshell if you constantly tell a child that he/she is naughty the chances are that it will self perpetuate and that child may
Lets let their children be who they are, not who we believe they should be or be defined by how they behave for a small period of time. I’m not overly liberal, and do believe in consequences for bad behaviour but I
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We see it a lot these days – people being labelled. If we crack a joke we are “The Funny One”, if we are quiet in social situations we are “shy”, if we take care in our appearance we might be told we are “vain”, the list goes on. Often these labels are harmless, funny even, but what happens when people label our children? As a mum of a 2 year old boy I am becoming increasingly aware of how my actions, thought s and feelings affect him and also how the beliefs of others shape who he is growing up to be.
Henry is a wonderfully spirited, sometimes slightly wild and unruly, typical two year old. He’s hard to control, has tantrums and is currently testing the boundaries to see how I react – all in all, pretty standard toddler behaviour. However, he’s also incredibly sensitive, thoughtful and very in tune with other people’s feelings. He enjoys playing quietly, can sit for hours reading books and loves exploring the outdoors. I see all the sides of his personality and (although I would sometimes kill for a little peace and quiet) appreciate them all. I watch him sitting quietly reading a book and admire how he studies every page but I also love how spirited, wild and spontaneous he can be. Henry has the perfect balance of thoughtful and sensitive vs uninhibited and instinctive. We often joke that, when he grows up, we won’t have to worry about him following the crowd – he knows his own mind, is head strong and completely does his own thing. I would never dream of labelling him, purely because he is just ‘Henry’, his own unique person.
However, of late, when we have been out and about or at other mums and children’s groups throw away comments have been made that I find hard to ignore. When Henry was having a particularly excited morning at play group one mum said, “ohhhh he’s a wild one isn’t he…he’ll be a handful when he gets to school…he’s going to be the ringleader”. A few weeks later when Henry was a bit under the weather a friend who we don’t see very often commented that, “he’s very sullen….you can tell that he’s a shy one”. The comment that we get fairly frequently is, “wow, he’s handsome…you’ll have to watch him when he gets older he’ll be able to get away with murder…the handsome ones are always the naughty ones”. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of these comments are just chat and don’t mean an awful lot in the grand scheme of things but I do still wonder why we need to judge and label children based on a small snapshot of their behaviour or how they look.
I believe that children will become what we tell them they are. In a nutshell if you constantly tell a child that he/she is naughty the chances are that it will self perpetuate and that child may think it is acceptable to misbehave because they believe that they are ‘naughty’. Similarly if you tell a child that he/she is thoughtful and praise their good behaviour they are more likely to recognise good behaviour and therefore believe that they are ‘good’. In my opinion we must also be careful that we don’t overinflate our children by telling them constantly that they are special and better than everyone else, perhaps it is better to recognise their good behaviour, support their unique traits and show them that they are loved. This is why I find it frustrating when people label our children – telling my 2 year old frequently that he is ‘a handful’ or that he is ‘wild and crazy’ embeds this behaviour in his mind and bit by bit encourages him to believe that is who he is. Yes, he is incredibly handsome and I don’t doubt that his blonde hair and huge blue eyes will make him a bit hit with the ladies when he’s older (I would lie if I said my heart doesn’t melt when I look at him because he is so lovely) BUT I am careful of telling him too often that he is beautiful and handsome. I would rather tell him that I love him, that something he did was kind or that he makes me happy than constantly shower him with praise for the way he looks. He is so much more than the way he looks or how he behaves for a few fleeting moments on any given day – I don’t want these words, phrases and notions to define him.
Lets let their children be who they are, not who we believe they should be or be defined by how they behave for a small period of time. I’m not overly liberal, and do believe in consequences for bad behaviour but I would rather celebrate my son’s unique traits and encourage him to be himself than try to label him or shoehorn him into a mould of who I think he should be. Maybe if we tell our children more often that they are ‘caring’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘respectful’, dwell less on the not so great bits and try not to label them they will grow into the kind of adults we hope they will be.