My child is….
The labels that we use have a powerful influence over how we feel about our child.
My child is…
Transitioning. Challenging. Developing. Delayed. Not developing. Growing too fast. Developing too slowly. Oppositional. Compliant. Defiant. Assertive.
The labels that we use have a powerful influence over how children feel about themselves.
Labels are important. Language is the system that we use to understand the world and ourselves in comparison to everything around us. It is how we organize things and ideas and people. It is almost impossible to consider a world without labels.
Big/Small. Happy/Sad. Good/Bad.
But we also need to be aware that labels, all labels, come with built-in emotional biases and judgments. As we label, we are also judging. And as we are labeled, we are feeling judged. It’s just a fact we can’t get around.
But we can be aware. We can realize that as we move quickly to label our kids—picky, bossy, ADHD, reserved, smart, pretty, handsome, athletic—we are burdening them with the underlying assumptions, judgments and emotions that come with each label. Even if the labels seem to fit in the moment. And while these labels may be things that our children need to figure out how to negotiate the world, they also need a safe space to shed the labels and just be.
Think about it. At work an executive may be capable, well-dressed, articulate, bossy, organized and demanding. But at home they just want to curl up in their pjs and eat ice cream from the container while watching a mindless movie. Sure they are all those traits that make them successful at work, but at home it feels good to melt away and not have to live up to any labels.
I wonder if we could give our kids the same space. What if we remembered that it is possible for our child to exist in their own space and just be? If we let go of the labels that our kids use to negotiate the outside world and just met them where they are. In the moment and for that moment, our interactions with our child could be pure, present and connected. If we weren’t thinking about what they should be doing and what they should need, and rather were focusing on what they are doing and what they do need, then we could engage fully. And that feels very different.
Try it. Just for a moment, let go of the labels and really see your child.
Today, in this moment: My child just is.