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We often tend to throw labels around like they mean nothing to us. Drama queen, nerd, geek, lazy bones .... the list goes on. And it’s no surprise that parents also do the same thing, from labeling their kids as geniuses to dismissing them as a good-for-nothing. What they don’t know is that these labels are damaging, even the ones that you think are positive.
Labeling your child is detrimental to their emotional and psychological wellbeing as it gives them an idea of how they’re supposed to act. Let us explain this by looking at the two broad categories that these labels fall into.
Giving your child negative labels, even jokingly, damages their self- esteem. They tend to internalize the name calling, and start believing that they cannot be any better than the label they’ve been given.
For instance, if your child is weak at Math, reminding him of it again and again, or calling him a dunce will make him think that he’ll never be good at it. As a result, he’ll just accept that he’s dumb and stop trying to be better. Another possibility is that to get rid of the label, he will start practicing math to the point where he will start resenting both the subject and you.
You might think that you’re helping or complimenting your child by giving them a positive label, such as genius or wonder kid. This might play out well, or your child could buckle under the pressure of living up to this title. This could lead to anxiety, stress and depression if they fail.
Help them develop a strong sense of self-esteem and a strong belief in their own abilities by balancing your praise and your criticism. This way your child will understand that your feedback is genuine. This also prepares them to accept the criticism they’ll receive in their life.
In addition to this, encourage them to take chances and venture outside their comfort zone so that they don’t get too stuck believing that they can only be one thing or another. Life is about being a success and a failure - and both are important since they teach you something valuable. So it’s important that you prepare your kids to take both success and failure in their stride. And the next time you’re on the verge of giving your child a label, be mindful of the affect your label might have on their psyche.
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