In our continued discussion on the six principles for dealing with temperament issues, we are now considering principle four. This principle surrounds an issue that often carries forward in later childhood: labeling. Sometimes, our children never recover from labels that are placed on them in early childhood. Moreover, some children work to live up to the negative labels placed on them—a cause of much loss for them and their families.
Principle four: how labels influence your child’s life
Principle four explains that caregivers should spend time changing negative labels into positive ones that reflect the child’s developmental stage and temperament style.
Most adults who feel inadequate have a clear memory that when they were growing up they frequently heard negative remarks, cruel nicknames or labels that were just as hard to deal with as other kinds of abuse. Negative labels highlight children’s problems and difficulties while ignoring their strengths and potential.
When caregivers realize these labels exist, it is important and significant they change the vocabulary being used to describe the child. The child truly needs to be seen differently than the labels being ascribed, and language is essential to reframing their personhood. Here are some examples how to reframe.
These new and more positive labels make a huge difference to a child’s self-perception. Children will feel more positive about themselves which may provide them a new capacity to act differently. The power of language is amazing. Positive words can bring change. More importantly, we need to realize how negative labels can harm our children.
The simple process of reframing these words to more positive and less judgmental ones can reshape a child from one with a poor self-image to one who will enjoy who he is and be free from judgment, shame and destroyed self-confidence baggage that negative labels can cause.
I hope those of you who are caregivers will now have heightened awareness to this issue and will practice this principle. I truly believe you will find measurable differences in how labeled children will act and react.
Isn’t it a wonderful opportunity to change a life through the positive power of words? Help build the value and worth of a child.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 46-47.