‘Keep on telling me what I am, and that’s what I’ll become’.
Be careful how you describe your children to their faces, to your friends and listen to what other family members say about each other and be mindful of accepting what you hear from your child’s teachers. Labels are so easy to give and so hard to undo.
Consider the nicknames, the stories told and the jokes you received as a child. And just be aware of the nicknames, jokes and stories and teasing that goes on in your house. As these are the signs that family members are cast into roles and given labels to match.
‘Oh, he’s the clever one in the family but he hasn’t got any common sense’, ‘She’s a bit of a tearaway’ ‘My youngest is so untidy and clumsy” “Oh, she’s the artistic one.”
Labelling is disabling and limiting if you are not aware of it. So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve suddenly noticed this in your family just make a conscious effort to be more aware in the future and to free your teenager up from any limiting labels.
Labels – good or bad, become a part of your teenager’s self image and although a label may start with a germ of truth in it, it quickly acquires its own momentum and speed. A ‘clumsy’ teen becomes apprehensive about unpacking the dishwasher and in a state of nervousness, drops a couple of plates. More proof that they are clumsy! It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Parents often label their children by comparing and contrasting them and some labels link your teen to another member of the family and may not be negative. “You’re just like your father.” “She sings beautifully just like her mother”. Whilst the labels are given and meant affectionately they convey equally powerful messages. So be aware of how you are using them.
Positive as well as negative labels have their downside. So for this week just notice the stories, jokes, name calling and teasing that goes on in your house and just reflect on what you see and hear. If you’re not entirely happy with what you discover don’t give yourself a hard time just ask yourself what you can do to guide, nudge and steer your family in another direction.
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
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