Parenting Pathway #117: A Look At Labels

This month I am a facilitating a book discussion of Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child. The book is a guide for caregivers of children who are more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic. However, even for parents and caregivers of less intense children (those she calls “cool” or “spunky” kids), the fundamental concepts are valuable.

When I learned I was pregnant with my first child, I suddenly became keenly aware of every other pregnant woman on the planet. My “radar” was on its highest setting and I could detect a pregnant woman at any stage. I noticed the same phenomenon when I decided to buy a new minivan. Suddenly, the only vehicles I noticed on the road were minivans in every model. What we are looking for impacts what we see.

This phenomenon is similar to the “Pygmalion Effect,” a persistently held belief in another person such that the belief becomes a reality. In other words, what we see is what we get. And so, with our children, we must be aware of our expectations and labels. When we have labeled a child as stubborn, wild, out-of-control or defiant, our behaviors follow suite. As we unconsciously begin to treat that child as stubborn or wild, the child reciprocates with stubborn or wild behavior.

Changing our expectations and negative labels allows us to see the child in a new light. Look at the positive side of a stubborn or wild child. A “stubborn” child could instead be appreciated for her willingness to persist in the face of difficulties. A “wild” child could be appreciated for his energy and zest. Persistence, energy and zest are, in fact, traits that the adult world admires and expects.

As your vocabulary changes, so does your perspective. You begin to focus on strengths and potential, and through your own signals, send the message to your child that you do not expect inappropriate behavior.

Coaching Inquiries: What words do you use to describe your child on a bad day? What words were used to describe you when you were little? How are these assets for you today?

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Erika Jackson (Erika@LifeTrekCoaching.com)
LifeTrek Coaching International
Columbus, OH  •   U.S.A.

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