What nicknames or words have you ever used to describe your child (even if they’ve just been in your mind!)? Are they positive and ‘selling’ words a marketing company would be proud of? Are they words that make everyone look at the positive sides to your child? Do they make you glow with pride? Do they make your child feel worthy and positive?
The thing is, it can be just so hard to always see your child in a positive light and use words to reflect this (especially in the heat of a MOMENT!). But, there is a good reason for trying do so. Here’s why…
Labels can and will hurt. They set up what’s called a Pygmalion Effect. That is, your child takes on the labels they are given. So the child labelled ‘naughty’ begins to live up to her name and the ‘wild one’ allows himself to ‘be’ wild, as this is simply what they’re being told they are! Children learn about who they are from others in their lives, particularly what is said about them.
A child who is told that they are loving, creative and curious, will have an ‘inner voice’ reflecting these positive labels. On the contrary, a child who is told they are stubborn, impatient and aggressive will have an inner voice struggling to create a strong self esteem.
You might have a child that is quite simple to view in a positive light, but next thing you are given a ‘spirited’ one (see My Child is Wearing Me Out… to find out more about what entails a Spirited child!)…. Sometimes these children just BEG for less than desirable names and titles as they can be more energetic, perceptive, sensitive, persistent and intense!
Taken from the book ‘Raising Your Spirited Child’ by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, here’s a list of a few tags and labels that some of the parents she dealt with had come up with for their kids…
Agressive, angry, never stops, chatterbox, argumentative, explosive, demanding, noisy, nosey, loud, whiny, easily frustrated, picky, wild, single-minded, disruptive, easily bored, self-critical, obnoxious, manipulative, up/down extreme……
But what about if we could see the positive side to each of these terms? What if we could start to educate our child with a positive term for each of these qualities and help them to understand how it might be helpful to them one day?
The nosey child might be instead called ‘curious’. The wild one would be called ‘energetic’, the loud one ‘enthusiastic’ and the stubborn one ‘persistent’. These labels not only change your child’s inner voice and help them to understand their traits but also make you as the parent feel much more positive about your child. And by changing your own attitude to a positive one helps to increase your tolerance and love for your child!
It is nice to know that it is not all ‘bad’ or ‘your fault’ for having negative feelings for calling your child any of these names. It usually means you are dealing with a difficult child and behaviour. And as the book Raising Your Spirited Child explains, dealing with these children can bring up raw and strong emotions for parents – fear, confusion, resentment, shame, embarrassment, exhaustion and anger, in having to deal with these traits.
Whilst it can be quite confronting to actually think about the negative labels you might have used or even thought of towards your child, the next step is to then think about how this trait might be positive for your child as an adult and give it a new name. Then explain this to your child – ‘remember how I once called you ‘naughty’, how about we change this to ‘curious’ – do you know what this means? Curious means you like to learn about everything, you have lots of interests, it will help you to keep learning throughout your life’. And then catch yourself when inevitably ‘naughty’ will sneak out at the heightened moments! But by catching yourself, you will hopefully remember better for next time! (and it also allows you to explain to your child how you make mistakes too).
And if you get this far, remember to spread the word to the other family members to get the whole family working on focussing on each family member’s strengths and potential!
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