Lazy, clever, pretty – what labels have you given your children?

If I read a label on a can, it tells me what to expect to be in the can. I can’t turn a can of baked beans into a can of tuna just by getting a marker pen and changing the label. But, amazingly we can with our children.

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Our kids have labels. Sometimes the label reads ‘bright kid’ or ‘naughty boy’ or ‘nuisance’ or ‘pretty girl’. Sometimes it’s their mates or teachers that put labels on a child – but more often, it’s us, their parents. Kids ‘read’ their labels and act accordingly. If they think they clever, they’ll act clever, if they think they are dumb, they’ll act dumb. If they think they are a naughty boy then chances are, that’s the way they will behave.

Change the labels and you change the child. For instance, if we start saying that a child is kind, and they believe it, they will become kinder. If we congratulate them on good choices, they will re-label themselves and make good choices.

We might not actually realise when we are putting labels on kids. Often it’s our tone of voice or facial expression that does the job. “Bring it here.” “Go back and close that. Nicely!” Here’s some homework – listen to yourself as you talk to your kids and ask yourself, “Do I use that tone of voice with any other adult?”

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