How often have you said about a child, “She’s the artistic one,” or “He’s the musical one”? Here’s why you shouldn’t label your child.
I wrote an awesome article I couldn’t wait to publish. The words just flowed and I felt I had something meaningful to share with you all.
Except you won’t get to read a single word because I deleted it.
“Can you read this article and tell me if I’m labeling him too much?” I asked my husband. Even before he answered, I knew in my gut that the post would classify my toddler immediately.
I won’t say what I had labeled my toddler (I deleted it for a reason!). But you can use any trait adults often label kids with: outgoing/funny/smart/shy/athletic/artistic/likes math/likes words/(fill in the blank).
Notice that the adjectives I mentioned above (outgoing/funny/etc) aren’t negative. We often discuss kids in a positive light when we apply labels. “Jane is the artistic one in the family” compliments Jane’s extraordinary artistic talent. How can that be bad for Jane?
Why you shouldn’t label your child
Jane may feel pride for being the artistic one. But she’s also likely to stick to the arts, even if other hobbies seem interesting. The more so if a sibling is “the athletic one.”
Someone praised for doing well in English may convince himself he’s terrible with numbers. (For some reason we divide math and literature as if we can’t do both. I know I fell for this.)
Let’s say people tell a little girl she’s shy. When she doesn’t say “hi” to everyone, her parents are quick to say, “Oh, she’s shy.” Never mind that stranger anxiety is 100% normal and even healthy.
So now this little girl grows up thinking she’s the shy one. Should there be an opportunity for her to be more outspoken, she may hesitate.
So back to writing the blog post that branded my toddler too much. And just to make it really obscure, let’s pretend I had labeled him as “blue.”
From what I’ve observed, he does seem to show tendencies of being blue as opposed to being green. But there’s a chance labeling him blue would change how I act towards and think about him. I might base my actions and thoughts on these earlier observations.
If his own mom already assumes he’s blue, why would he feel free to show other characteristics?
If I had published that article, family and friends who read this blog may nod their heads and agree. “Yes… he probably is blue instead of green.”
Now, not only does his mom think he’s blue, but people he knows may see him as blue and nothing else.
I clicked “delete” instead of “publish” because I shouldn’t define who he is. My toddler will. And he needs the freedom to explore his interests and traits, unhindered by labels.
Let him be outgoing, funny, smart, shy, athletic, and artistic. Let him like numbers and words. And let him be all that, some, or none of that. But that’s for him to decide through the course of his life, not when he’s two years old.
And can we even label our kids in such neat categories? He can be serious and downright funny. He’ll say “hi” to some strangers and hides behind me with others. He can be up to no good and obey every instruction. He ‘ one of the easiest and most difficult kids I’ve ever met.
Let kids be. They have their whole life to determine who they are and what they like. I know I did. I scored terrible in math during school. I convinced myself I just wasn’t good at the subject. Now? I love crunching numbers and handling finances. And yes, while still being able to write.
Read more posts about how we communicate with our kids:
- Teaching Resilience and Perseverance: How to Raise Kids with Grit
- Here’s How to Address Your Child’s Failures
- How to Properly Use Praise to Encourage Your Child’s Potential
- Why You Shouldn’t Reward Your Kids (And What to Do Instead)
- Why It’s Not Good to Say Good Job (and What to Say Instead)
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