One thing I’ve read about time and again in some of my favorite parenting books is the dangers of labeling. I was discussing this thought with my neighbor, a 1st grade teacher for the last 37 years, just the other day. Labeling your kids is the act of assigning attributes or qualities to your children with your language. For instance, “You are so smart!” “He is an athlete.” or “She is shy.” Avoiding labels when your kids are young is especially important in allowing them to grow into whatever person they are meant to be.
Labeling In Boxes
Society has a tendency to put everyone into boxes. We want people to identify attributes about themselves so that we can see where they fit in and belong. The bad thing about this with children is that they change. Kids drastically change from year to year as they grow, influenced by their friends, experiences, successes, failures, and especially their parents. But parents, just like everyone in society, wants their children to be labeled and neatly put into boxes that society accepts. When a child starts to change–for instance, when they were 5 years old they were shy but as they age they become outgoing–children are conflicted between the label they’ve been given by their parents about their personality and what they feel about themselves now.
In this instance, she enjoyed being put in a box.
Labels Are Bad, Even if They Are About Good Things
You might say to your child that they are so smart to praise them, but unfortunately that language will not accomplish the self-worth you are trying to foster in your child. Labeling them as smart gives them an impossible standard to uphold. Your child will undoubtedly face situations they do not feel smart, especially as they age and other children surpass their intelligence for some reason or another. Again, the label makes your child conflicted and scared of failure. If they try something that they will likely fail at, like a difficult math course, they risk not being considered “smart.” Therefore, they stick with safe activities they know they are already good at, completely limiting their potential. More can be found on this concept by reading the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.
So what do we do? You stop labeling your kids and change the language you use. There is a way to encourage your child’s self-confidence and give them the freedom to determine their identity without parental influence. Click here to get some insight and change the way you talk to your kids.