Many of us receive labels that define who we are early on in life. These labels can be given to us by our parents, teachers, coaches, or even our friends.
There are good labels: friend, daughter, sister, student, etc…
And then there are the not so good labels: short, fat, skinny, dumb, know-it-all, etc..
I believe that some labels can be more harmful than good, especially when it comes to our children.
In one of my psychology classes, I learned to never label your client unless they had a serious medical condition.
((Ok, I am aware that I have already lost half of you, and the rest are probably rolling your eyes because it seems like that is all medical health professionals seem to do nowadays but hear me out…))
People can feel depressed and even be depressed because life happens… But it is completely different to be a depressive person or suffer from depression.
Some people do clinically suffer from serious mental health illnesses (e.g. depression) even when nothing seems to be happening to produce those feelings. There is a neurological explanation for all of this, but that is not what this post is about.
Because of this, we are taught to stay away from labeling our clients because even though they might be experiencing depression due to a life circumstance, such as getting laid off, that feeling is not permanent and it does not describe who they are as a person.
I learned to stay away from placing labels on my clients because labels stick.
This brought me to the conclusion that we need to be careful how we label our children.
He is my silly child.
She is my artist.
He is the wild one.
She is my serious child.
He is my athletic one.
She is the smart one.
These are just a few of the many labels I have heard other parent’s say about their children.
Again, labels stick.
Even when you think children aren’t listening and you are talking to a friend about your “wild child”, they hear every word and they grow up living life according to that label.
Children are extremely influenced by their parents behaviors, thoughts, actions, and words.
So when their parents or someone close to them tells them who they are (e.g. “athletic one” or “smart one”) they take on that role given to them and have a hard time being more than that one label that described them in that moment.
However true one label might seems to describe your child, it is not who they are.
I have to catch myself with Keo because as of right now, he loves attention and he loves to make people smile and laugh. He will do just about anything to make you laugh.
It would be easy to label him as my silly child, but he is more than that one label.
There are times when he is a goofball, and times when he is so incredibly serious.
He is extremely shy when he doesn’t know you, but once he does, you are his best friend.
He learned to walk at 10 months old, then he walked while kicking a ball at 11 months, but that doesn’t make him my “athletic one” even if he does grow up to be good in sports.
If I am taught not to give adults labels because they stick and tend to create negative impacts on their life, which ultimately results in them leaving your office and living their life according to that label, how much more true is that for our children?
As always, I can only speak from my experiences.
I had my own label growing up and it described my character pretty well, but it wasn’t who I was.
It was until I became an adult when I realized that I could be more than that one label that only described a portion of who I was.
If you feel the need to label your children, label them will love and positive affirmations that will stick to them in a positive way and help them become an even better version of themselves.
The next time you feel yourself wanting to say something like “he is my silly child”, try saying something more like: he likes to be silly or he can be silly. Because you are describing their behavior of the moment and not who they are.
Don’t tell them who they are with your one label because they are so much more than that.