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Avoid Labeling Your Child

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Before you label your child with a characterization or career path, take a moment to consider why. Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Robin Berman, MD., says that often times, our inclination to label our children a certain way is a result of personal bias or upbringing.

“We have to be very curious about what biases and labels we put on our children. Stop and think about what it means to you,” Berman says.

If you’re inclined to label your child, ask yourself if it has anything to do with your relationship with your parents. You may be subconsciously replicating your childhood experiences and labels that were assigned to you.

It’s never a bad thing to have goals for your child, but let them determine how they would like to achieve them. This accounts for after-school activities, as well. Try to avoid mandating what sport or activity your child must take part in, and let their decision be an organic product of their personality.

“Labels are limits,” says Berman. Giving your child a label will alter a child’s perspective of themselves and their capabilities, and not always for the best.

When speaking about your child, either to them or in their presence, be mindful of assigning labels. Calling your child a “diva” or “jock” may make them feel forced into satisfying this expectation of them, even if that is not in congruence with the life they want for themselves. Negative labels can also have a lasting impact on how your child views themselves, even if, in the moment, you did not intend for such permanence.

“When you call your children names– you’re lazy, you’re selfish– it’s very lasting. As your brain is developing these names get locked in to your developing brain,” Berman warns. “That’s how powerful our voice is as parents, and that’s why we need to take a real pause before we speak.”

Berman encourages parents to pause before assigning a label to their child, no matter what the intention behind that label is. “Conscious, mindful language,” Berman says, is the best method of damage control.

It can be easy to accidentally label your child based on their frustrating behaviors. As parents, your opinion holds the most weight to your child, even if it doesn’t feel like it during the teenage years, and because of this, even the smallest comments can affect how your child sees him or herself– possibly even for years to come. Instead of limiting your child with the pressure or restrictions of labels, let them define themselves and pursue interests that were not decided for them, but by them.


More on accepting your child.


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