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How to develop resilience by avoiding labelling your children.

“She is a picky eater”, “He is lazy”, “She’s a perfectionist” are all examples of some of the things we say to undermine all the things we do to develop resilience in children.   In this blog we outline how to stop being a Label Queen and focus on behaviour. 

Now, when I talk about Label Queens, I don’t mean fashionistas. I am talking about how we all use labels to make sense of the world around us. Some of the labels I have used and hear other parents use include “bossy”, “worrier” and “smart”.

Why do we do it when all we want is to build resilience in children?

We categorise the world and everything in it to differentiate people and build connection and with our children to help us work out how we need to deal with them and what they need.  We label because it’s efficient way of problem solving.  You probably know there is a danger in simplifying our children by labelling – the label can often become a part of your child’s self identify and that can erode self esteem. 

Even worse they will likely behave through that lens.  Think back to the labels your parents gave you and your siblings?  If you still remember them, chances are they have impacted you in some way. 

The problem is, like a museum label, its hard to change.  After all the Mona Lisa will always be the Mona Lisa.   

If we label our child a worrier, chances are they will behave that way. The challenge is to shift our focus and help our child be a WARRIOR and face their fears and challenge. 

Changing behaviour is easier to change than a label. To do this we recommend the following steps :

Step 1: Identify the label – “She’s bossy” 

Step 2: Identify the behaviours you see/hear:  For example, she may shout at friends, not listen or say things that hurt people. 

Step 3: Identify what behaviour they need to do more of. For example, being more patient with others, be respectful, learn to calm down. 

Step 4: Identify what if they stopped would make them feel better:  Being angry, being impatient. 

Step 5: Identify what support from you or others that they need to change the behaviour

By doing these five steps, “She’s bossy” becomes “She needs to learn to express herself so people listen and are happy to do things for her.”

What is wrong with a good label? 

At this point you may be puzzled about what is wrong with “She’s so smart.” The problem with this label is that it is an example of a fixed mindset.  If a child is always told they are smart then there is a chance that when they come up against a challenge they will not have the confidence to tackle it.  After all,  they have been told they are smart so if they are having a problem there must be something wrong with them.