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Stop labeling, even if positive

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 3 March 2022

Forget about labeling.

This may be difficult, especially when we're all trying to understand our children and learn who they are. Being able to define their characteristics makes us better able to parent them, but even labels that may not seem negative may still cause a child to define himself and increase the likelihood of that behavior, according to Dr. William Sears in his book The Successful Child.

If a child knows she is referred to as something even as innocuous as a "picky eater," when presented with a plate of food, she may subconsciously think, "I'm a picky eater, so it's OK for me to refuse this. It's who I am." 

Any label, however seemingly harmless, sends the message to children that they've already been defined and that they can't do anything differently.

Even seemingly positive labels like "smart" or "talented" can have a way of bringing a child down. When a smart/talented child encounters a challenge too great or when he is suddenly unsuccessful at something, rather than working at overcoming the challenge, he may defer to his given label and concede with, "I guess I'm not that smart or talented after all."

If children are to grow and develop confidence in themselves, they must be free of labels. We need to allow them to be who they are without feeling compelled to abide by their label, to change over the years as they outgrow behaviors, and to develop new interests and strengths.

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Kelly Bartlett is a certified positive discipline educator.

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Stop labeling