What do you do when you know your child did something that you consider wrong?
When we know that our kids did something wrong, it’s better, more respectful and less threatening, to talk to them using a statement and not a question. A question accuses them and sets them up to lie to us.
1. Instead of asking “did you brush your teeth?” you can say “today we brush our teeth twice”, giving them a second chance to brush. The child knows he didn’t brush and he knows that you know he didn’t brush. This statement prevents labeling him as a liar. Also, we would never ask our boss or friend to open their mouth and let us smell to see if they remembered to brush their teeth, and that is why we shouldn’t do it with our kids. It’s disrespectful and trying to catch them in a lie.
2. Instead of asking the child “did you take this from Johnny’s house?” you can say “This is not ours. Looks like we need to drive to Johnny’s house and return it.” This statement prevents labeling him as a liar or a thief.
There are risks to labeling our children. If one child in the family is known as “the student” and another “the athlete”, they will most likely not try to develop any skills outside of that as that is what they perceive they are good at and nothing else. As well, if one child excels in an area, the siblings will likely choose not to compete in that area because that position is already taken and they don’t see an opportunity of competing for that skill. The risk of labeling your child is that they may end up believing the label and limit their potential to experience and develop themselves in other areas.
Labels that can be harmful or limiting:
The smart one
The pretty one
The responsible one
Also, once we’ve dubbed our child “The _______” we cannot think of or operate as if they are anything but that. Our behavior will subconsciously communicate that that is our belief.
Seeing your child as a unique individual and calling them by name is more empowering, and gives them the gift of seeing them for who they are, not who you wish they were (or weren’t).
What labels do you use when describing your kids? What could you use instead?