The media and our society is obsessed with the concept of labeling. We see it in the news everyday. A child is being bullied at school. Or a teenage girl hung herself over a Facebook post.
Thirty years ago, the news wasn't obsessed with the well-being of our children's psyches. Reporters were discussing the Cold War or the implications of a new president.
The news still reports on those facets of life, but it is hidden behind social issues. But the problem with labeling has gotten out of control in our society. Almost too much news.
Now, I am not that mother who supports bullying or harsh behavior toward other children, but I do have a problem with not being able to be honest. Labels are critical to our ways of communication. We have labeled everything forever. It works the same way as judgment. Any person who claims that they are not judgmental are liars or stupid. We judge. We judge everything.
Anyways, off topic a little bit. I do not support negative communication toward children. Children labeling or bullying other children is a minimal problem compared to the real problem: parents labeling or bullying their own children (or children within their proximity).
Parents label their children smart, slow, gifted, awkward, and so on. Parents do this aloud when the children are very young without realizing that children have ears. Could you imagine if you told a close friend that you think that they are ignorant and will not succeed in life? Do you think that they would be your friend anymore?
Parents do another thing. Something I like to call parental bullying. Parents bully their children by invalidating truths, living double standards, telling children that they are wrong, and so forth. For example, my friend Paula* consistently tells her toddler that she is not smart enough to get it yet. The child is THREE. Three-year-olds understand you. Even if they do not understand the words, they can flesh out the context and meaning of a statement.
A child tells you that he/she is hungry after just eating and you say, "No, you're not hungry." Parents do this because they believe that the child is trying to get something out of them. Or perhaps the child didn't finish dinner and you want to prove a point. By immediately shutting them down, you are invalidating their truths. You are telling them, "No, what you said isn't right. Only I am right."
How do we avoid these forms of bullying and learn to communicate with our children?
Here are some ideas:
Focus on Your Response:
After your child has asked you a question or attempts to accomplish something and fails, stop before responding. Adjust your facial expression and make sure that it isn't condescending or hurtful. Before children learn words, they learn to read facial expressions.
Second, use a positive and confident tone. Send a positive message to your child, even if you are explaining something that you think is easy.
Stop Labeling Your Child:
Stop labeling your kids. Stop telling them that they are so smart. Stop saying to your spouse that little Timmy is so awkward when he is in the same room. He can hear you. He is a little person. He has feelings. Forcing unneeded labels onto your children is terrible.
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