The labels we use for our kids

April 26, 2013 in Faith that Shines,lessons for moms

The labels we give our kids

Label outline courtesy of Creature Comforts

I wonder if the tendency to categorize things is uniquely human? We categorize animal species, plant seeds, rocks, personality types and body shapes. It makes us feel more in control and gives us a way to organize all the information we receive.

It shouldn’t surprise me then how parents try to categorize their kids. When my oldest was little, she we labeled her quickly:  unathletic, girly-girly, smiley, good eater. Some labels made me proud: like “good eater.”  I must be doing something right if my girl wasn’t picky like those other toddlers. I fretted over some labels, like “slow reader.” How could this English teacher who read to her girl multiple times a day have a slow reader?  Today, my girl’s labels are different: athletic, tomboy,  great eater (with a bit of a sugar addiction), slow reader (with impressive comprehension and retention).

My second girl was whiny, cuddly,  and painfully shy. She was athletic and ate anything as a toddler. I worried and fretted about her shyness. Now at nine, she is still whiny, and cuddly, but not shy. She’s still athletic. And she’s one of the pickiest eaters I know.

We like to label our kids. We think the labels give a a glimpse into their future. We use the labels to help us understand our kids. And the labels can be helpful. It makes sense to put an artsy kid in art class. But we also use the labels to direct our worries. When labels blind us to potential, to hope for change, or limit the thinking of our child they need to be forgotten. ( When a a child is told she is “plain” often,she will believe it. Well, so will an adult.)

There’s a truth God’s been nudging at me. I recognize the truth but can’t internalize it because labeling is a habit. I Stop worrying, keep prayingshare the labels I recognize out loud, too often. I try to enforce the labels I love and change the ones I hate, sometimes nagging on them. Maybe writing God’s truth here will help.

God made my girls. He knows who they are and who they will be. Therefore I can rest. I can recognize the good and the bad labels. I can celebrate some even. But I need not worry or fret. Worry is a sin. Slow reader, poor student, picky eater, painfully shy, homely, acned, clumsy, dumb or rude. Few labels stay with us for our entire life. God can use them all to teach us, refine us, and change us and/or our kids. And a bad label, like whimpy,  can develop into a better one, like strong. God is not limited by labels. And children, raised to follow Christ, they won’t be limited either. So stop worrying but keep praying.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I love this! After speaking with another mom, I recently assigned my girls their very own love languages. While, I think “labels” can be helpful in how we parent our daughters uniquely, I think it’s also important to keep an open mind that, maybe, what their needs are currently, is not a definition of who they are, or how/who they always will be.


pruningprincesses April 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Oh Julia, just stopped by your blog and you are so very busy. Another princess to prune! I hope everyone is healthy now. My H just turned 11. Oh MY! And I’ve been surprised in how I thought I had their personalities pegged when they were younger. The surprise comes in what stay and what goes. After being married for 15 years and seeing how parts of my husband and me have stayed and which have gone, I shouldn’t be surprised but I was so eager to identify who they would be. Thanks for stopping by, so nice to hear from you again.


ronnie April 27, 2013 at 11:11 am

Good insight. I think our brains automatically make labels so we can organize all the information easily. But, totally agree – don’t worry over it.

(SITS Sharefest)


Michelle April 27, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Labels can help us understand our kids, but as you say, they can change. And certain labels can limit how a child views themselves…that’s an important reminder. Kids bloom at all different points in their lives…as adults we are still growing and changing. As adults we understand more that a label doesn’t define us…it’s not as easy for kids. Thanks for the insightful post…made me think!


pruningprincesses April 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Michelle, I understood all that you said as an adult and yet I still spent too much time worrying about my kids and some trait they had or didn’t have. Really, it was a waste of energy. So much changes with time and while a little intervention here or there was helpful, the worrying never was. Thanks for stopping by.


Michelle April 27, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Absolutely, agreed!! Worrying never changes anything anyway!


Maureen @Scoops of Joy April 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm

This post couldn’t come to me in a better timing! I just had a wonderful day with my son but he is an emotional child who cries a lot and it sadden me deeply that people call him a cry baby and he’s 6 years old. Thank you for this post.


pruningprincesses April 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Maureen, my oldest is only 11 but those labels from childhood? They can be exhausting and the kids learn from them, but most don’t stick. Just like I am the same yet very different from the girl who got married 15 years ago. So glad this post encouraged you. And I pray that you will be filled with patience as you wait for your boy to mature.


Holly April 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Such great thoughts. I love how you said “God can decide which labels stick”. I’ve found our girls can label themselves too, in comparison with sisters, which isn’t always a good thing. So yes there are good labels and bad labels, so I love the thought that labels don’t have to stick. Things do change. I need to see beyond the labels and pray more about things. Thank you!


Laurie April 27, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Good post. So true. I never cared much for labels, especially after having my daughter tested for so many different things. The labels made the professionals feel better but it never really changed how we raised or treated her. Now that she is 23 years old it still doesn’t. 🙂


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