Friday, July 15, 2011

Ignore the Label Please!

Sometimes I worry that I'm labeling my little one way too soon. He's only 16 months old and my husband and I, as well as a few family and friends have already labeled him as The Strong-Willed Child. Of course there is some tiny truth to that assumption. He does need to be told numerous times NO (as many toddlers do) and sometimes will swat the person who is keeping him from his prize. Yes, afterwards, he'll slowly sneak back to the scene in question and try to repeat the offense when no one's looking. Let's not forget the occasional (well a little bit more than that) temper tantrum where if he can't have that special something, he'll flop on the floor and roll around screaming with arms flailing. But how much of his future personality are we shaping by passing his normal-ish toddler behavior as a hard and fast personality trait?

See, I'm a Family Therapist and study people for a living. And all too often, I see members of families pigeon-holed into a role such as the: Smart One, Trouble Maker, Sensitive One, Bully, Scapegoat.. the list goes on. I've often wondered, how much of the label comes from true character traits or from kids living up to what they've been hearing all of their lives?

When counseling youth displaying delinquent behaviors, almost always they tell me, "I'm the black sheep! I'm the problem!" And likewise from the parents, "They've been like this since birth! Causing us all grief!" Of course I then suggest that the kid hearing this for years may have shaped their behavior - or at least their motivation to make more positive decisions. Needless to say it takes a few sessions before the parents are willing to chew on that tasty little morsel.

So that brings me to my questions to you, dear readers. Do you feel you were labeled as a child? How much of that do you think may have affected your life decisions? How can we as parents choose our words wisely to give our children a fair shot at growing into their own true selves?


  1. We say the same thing about Norah ... but not in front of her. Usually I just call her "spunky" or "sassy." ;) She's a determined little girl, not just in her temper tantrums/whiny streaks but also in her playtime, too. I think she's going to be strong-willed but YES, I do think people are too quick to label their kids!

  2. Not necessarily my parents, but other family members always called me "the quiet one". I was extremely shy as a kid. I got used to not being expected to join in on the conversation so I didn't. Now that I am adult, I still am extremely awkward in social settings. But, I can be very lively around those I know and trust. But I'm still working on that...