As you may have read from me already, labels are awful. To put an adjective, either positive or negative, marks your children’s personality. And, I’d dare to say, that it is for a lifetime. Maybe parents do it without being aware of consequences; they don’t know the “traces” they leave behind, the burden…
If you hear you are SHY from an early age, that’s what you are going to think about you. At age 7, you won’t dare to speak out when your teacher asks you something. At 12 you won’t participate in that school play. At 16 you won’t find the courage to get into that girl/boy you fancy. At 20 you hyperventilate if you have to present a project to your classmates at university. At 28 you won’t succeed in that job interview because of your nerves, and at 34 you will find yourself in front of a psychologist trying to overcome what has defined your personality during your life. And your parents will keep on repeating that you are so SHY!
You may think I’m a bit exaggerated, I know, but that would only mean that you can’t look face to face with reality. Because when we mark, we are setting a path. Although our labels may be considered positive, like in the sentence “this girl’s the smartest in the class,” the fact is that we are also damaging because that person will always try not to make any mistake, when, in real life, all people fail and learn from mistakes.
Your life’s purpose must be to live happily beside your children. Do not waste your time telling them unjustified words.
Today, I would like to bring you these seven words that you should BAN yourself from saying to your kids. All of them are labels that have an ADVERSE impact on their lives.
1- Annoying: Have you ever told this (or a synonym) to your kids? I hear it everywhere (in the park, supermarket, at school gates, on the beach…). It seems that telling children things like “you are annoying,” “stop shouting, you tiresome”… are as normal as having lunch. But the truth is they are NOT. Labeling your child as annoying is horrible. You make him/her feel upset, dreadfully upset, and you are making him/her feel underestimated, disrespected and unloved; with the feeling that “nobody cares about me” “I’m not important for anyone.” Maybe the main reason for calling your children annoying or tiresome is that you are not able to manage your emotions. Because it’s you who lose YOUR temper the fourth time you listen “how far is it, daddy?”. So remember: breathe and think before saying something that can follow them for a lifetime.
2- Mannerless: First I would like to ask you what does to be well-mannered exactly mean for you? A child who eats everything without saying a word? The one that brushes his/her teeth without even being told? The one that gets good grades? Or the one that remains silent while “grown-ups” talk? If you label your children as ill-mannered because they don’t behave as you would like them to behave… you’ve taken the wrong path. To be ill-mannered implies to be disrespectful, so if you are always labeling them, then you are disrespectful to them too. Reflect on what you want your children to become: submissive or happy?? Help your kids to have their motivations and likes, to search for their real passion, without judging or branding them, to become respectful with themselves and others. And be sure that by calling them ill-mannered you won’t get it.
3- Bratty: It seems that when a person asks for what he/she wants then becomes capricious. Don’t you think that is so contradictory? We want our children to fight for their dreams, but if they ask for what they want, then they are fanciful. It’s perfectly okay that children want things and that if they don’t get them, then they cry and feel sad. But that also happens to adults, we all feel frustrated in similar situations, when we cannot get our goals. The key point is, again, the way that we parents accompany our children with their frustration or other emotions. So, when your kids ask you for something that you cannot give them, or they cannot have for any (at least, coherent) reason, then accompany their emotions and discomfort properly, instead of calling them bratty.
4- Spoiled: This label makes me feel extremely sad. It seems that someone is spoiled when he/she has been overly pampered. And it makes me sad because it makes the caresses, the real ones that we all need, are seen as dangerous or somehow “counter-productive.” We must offer affection to our children ALWAYS, to create a close link between each other, and also encourage a healthy self-esteem. You should not confuse “lawlessness” (letting your children do everything they want without accompanying them, without marking respectful limits for a physically and emotionally healthy life) with affection. We must find the balance with children, a beneficial balance for everyone, but above all, for children. So, please, do not deny them your cuddles and caresses, they are needed. And if you give them, do not throw it back in their faces!
5- Whiny/crybaby: We all know that the first communication skill our children have as they are born is, exactly, crying. Later on, they begin to communicate through language, but crying is still a great ally. In fact, crying is necessary, healthy, normal and natural. Why then we insist on marking someone that needs to express him/herself in that way? If we label our children as crybabies, they will learn that crying is wrong, incorrect and socially frowned upon… then better not complain when your kids have serious problems with their emotions as they won’t be able to express them. If your children cry, take an interest in what happens, pay attention and listen to them, offer your affection and hugs, learn about their interests, let them lean on you, that would be everything they need. Don’t judge them for crying, and by no means label them.
6- Lazy: This way of classifying children makes me supremely mad. Why do we actually call them lazy? We just come back again to point 2: because they do not do whatever we want to whenever we want to. Children frequently labeled as lazy are the ones, for instance, that do not help to set the table, do not make their bed, do not take dishes out of the dishwasher, do not do the homework, do not help hanging clothes up, do not tidy their room, do not study… First of all, we should consider that our children are just kids, they have the right to live life as children, with time to play, to have fun, to rest and also to get bored. They are not robots or slaves to be always at the mercy of their parents. Also, have the right not to be judged or hurt every time they do not feel like doing some dull routine. Some families don’t understand that there’s a time for everything and childhood should never be filled with “adults” things; childhood should be fulfilled of life, playtime, live learning, love, and respect. Everybody learns to make their bed, but if you harass your kids calling them lazy, obliging them to do it every day and in a rude way, all you’ll get is that they end up hating making their bed, as well as your manners.
7- Naughty: Children’s label par excellence. And this is built into society. For example, when a woman gives birth, and she’s asked about her little one, she either answers: “Great, he sleeps all night, he’s so good,” or “he doesn’t sleep so well, he’s a naughty boy.” What does to be a naughty boy/girl mean? For me, a bad person is one that physically or psychologically mistreats, punishes, rapes, murders… NOT a single child is bad, NONE at all! So, please, do not label them so lightly, stop and think about the significant differences between your kids and the REAL bad people, and reflect on the damage you can cause on their self-esteem.
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This selection is just an “opener” of all the things that should be forbidden to be said to children. But I think that if you start by not telling them and guide the people around you to do the same, that could be a good start setting little goals and reaching them step by step.
Everything that we say or do have consequences on our children’s life, so we have to work hard to give them satisfying lives. Even on those emotionally “hard” moments, when we have to overcome many adversities.
Do not forget to put these learnings into practice. And, if you found it interesting, please share for it to get to many other families.
Thanks for reading,
Parent & Teacher Educator, Author, Expert in Respectful Education & Founder of Edurespect School