We’ve all had bad days – even bad weeks. Something stresses us out or scares us and in turn, we get snappy or short or even spiteful. Well, this happens to kids, too – although they may express themselves differently, like pushing another child, having a tantrum or kicking over a sand castle. Except kids these days get tagged quickly as ‘the bad kid’ and the use of such labels has a potential to damage young lives. Children change and develop but labels, unfortunately, tend to stick. This can make it hard for children to leave behind negative reputations and start afresh.
Read on for some other reasons why labeling children as ‘bad kids” can be harmful:
It diminishes self-worth
Labeling a child is incredibly destructive because of its impact on the child’s self-worth. Imagine, for a moment, a child who constantly hears that they are “bad”. When a child is labeled as naughty, they starts to believe that label is their identity. They starts accept these words as true and they will continue to believe in that label as they grows up. Kids misbehave for any number of reasons, just as adults do. But telling a kid that’s what they are allows them to internalize the message. This can lead to even worse behavior and psychological issues including depression and anxiety.
It focuses on the person, not the action
When your child misbehaves, focus on the action instead of using the situation to characterize. Tell your child that pushing another child is “harmful” rather than telling your child that he or she is “evil”. Or call out the behavior as being bad and continue to reinforce that the kid is, in fact, a good person capable of doing good. Calling out the behavior, and not the kid, also allows parents to connect it to natural consequences, as in: “You threw the book and now the book is going to be put away.” That is a much more effective action than telling a child that they are a bad person.
It doesn’t give them the opportunity to explain themselves
Give a child a chance to describe the reasons for their behavior. Kids often want to explain themselves and be heard. Asking why allows for a constructive dialogue, a sign of a healthy parent-child relationship. You may discover reasons for their behavior that you couldn’t have anticipated. When your child shares his or her reasons, it provides an opportunity to guide how to avoid negative behavior and repeat positive behavior.
It often highlight the negative characteristics of a child
Nobody is perfect. When you label a child as “bad”, the focus becomes the one issue the child struggles with and not the myriad of things the child can do successfully. This ties into the self-worth issue above. It makes them feel like there is no room for improvement. Children are not motivated to behave by hearing time and time again that they are naughty.
Labels are more powerful than we realize and they impact your behavior as parent as well.. If you look at a child through the lens of a negative label, your response to their actions is likely to be more critical. All kids deserve a fair shake – even if they are simply having an off day.