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Why I Try Not To Squeeze My Kids Into 1-Word Categories — They’re Undefinable.

I am anti labels. I don’t like them. I don’t like them—

Did I mention, I really don’t like them? Because spoiler alert: I don’t.

Why do we label?

To make ourselves feel more comfortable, of course.

Well, I am here to tell you, I don’t think they benefit anyone in any situation.

With kids,

we aim to raise them so that they fit in — so we label — to make sure they are conforming to society’s needs because that’s what we are taught to do.

I am guilty of this calling my oldest “strong-willed” and my middle child “shy.”

But this is problematic,

because if we label him, he may limit himself to that category thinking that’s all he can be.

Because if we label her, she may feel pressured to remain in that category out of fear of disappointing others.  For example, if we label her something like “smart,” she may feel compelled to achieve to continue making people proud.

We shouldn’t box our kids when they are so much more than one word — they can’t be so easily defined.

Because the more times he is called something, the more times he will believe that is who he is.

But maybe that is not whom she was meant to be, but she feels trapped in that identity.

Because if he hears something over and over again, he’s going to believe it.

I know this because I was labeled the “good girl,” and that title increased my need to be perfect.

It increased my irrational ideals and unrealistic expectations.

And guess what? Perfection doesn’t exist, so I always fell short feeling like a complete failure.

I’ll let you in on a secret I’ve since learned. The gray area in life is where everyone should be. Our kids need to know they can be whom they want and maybe even a little of everything.

It’s like this too when labeling foods good or bad. It’s almost as if food has become a moral issue. I heard my dad say the other night, “I was so bad last night,” because of that ice cream he let himself indulge in.

When a bad food is eaten, then we feel shame. This is how we develop a negative relationship with food.

If you want your kids to have a healthy relationship with themselves, then let them be undefinable — there is too much to them to put into a one-word description. Let them be layered — that’s how they’ll gain confidence in who they are.


Danielle Sherman-Lazar

This story originally appeared on Living A FULL Life

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