Categorizing, grouping, sorting and labeling help us feel that we have a sense of control. These skills are vital in getting things done and help us retain order in our lives. Although the categorizing of others gives us the greatest sense of order, often we don’t realize the damage our need for control inflicts upon others, especially our children.
It’s been said: “What [people] hear or repeat continually, ends by becoming convictions”. It must therefore be noted that as humans we live up to the labels placed upon us.
If we are constantly told that we are failures, we will never view ourselves as having reached success. If, however, we are encouraged and believed in, we are able to conquer the seemingly impossible. We may not deliberately tear down our children but without thinking don’t we all fall into the habit of grouping, categorising and labelling them?
Even if our child is out of earshot, if we label our children as moaners we begin to view them as moaners, rather than them having developed the habit of moaning. Labeling therefore alters our view of our children. We think this is who they are and we will not aid them in breaking the habit developed.
We need to decide on certain traits we expect of our children, such as honesty, loyalty, punctuality, forgiveness and obedience. We should then speak these truths over and into their lives daily. Instead of harping on your children’s tardiness, note the times they attempt to be punctual and respond with, “Wow, you were quick, you are becoming so punctual”. By doing this we are raising our view of our children and increasing their belief in themselves.
We need to acknowledge our children’s weaknesses or failings, but heed the way in which we approach them. If your child is finding math difficult, acknowledge this fact without labeling him or her as being “bad at math” or “a failure”.
A program showcasing toddlers entering beauty pageants showed children screaming at their mothers, throwing tantrums and bossing their parents around only to hear the parent laugh and say: “She’s such a diva”. Then the little mite wins, holds her crown and shouts: “I’m a diva!” This is a prime example of children living up to the labels placed upon them.
There are many other boxes such as uncoordinated, untidy, lazy, fighter, careless and forgetful that we place our children into. When you are constantly expecting a child’s forgetfulness, he or she begins to believe that these standards are, firstly, acceptable and, secondly, they are enslaved to them. This is simply who they are and there is nothing anyone can do about it. This is, however, not true and if you change your vocabulary to “you are remembering so well”, even if she only remembered to take her lunch tin home, your expectation suddenly shifts into the positive.
On the other hand, by labeling our children as “the best” we place huge pressure upon them to perform. They often begin to equate our love with their performance and this can lead to a fear of failure. This can result in many harmful consequences, including children just giving up as they are unable to live up to the label placed upon them.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility and it is not easy to raise children. However, by not enslaving them to our expectations and labels we free them to become all they were created to be and so allow them to reach their full potential.