Imagine when you were a kid, having your teacher, siblings, teachers or relatives calling you “grumpy” or “lazy” or even “shy”. Labels stick. More than 30 years later, they do stick.
The effect of words have a huge impact of kids. Here are some highlights:
- When your child is shamed for her behavior, she’s so wrapped up in her own negative emotions that she’s less capable of feeling empathy towards others.
- When fear and stress enter into the picture for your child, learning stops.
- Labeling your child’s behavior (or personality) in a negative way becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, when you declare something like this to yourself or another person, it’s enough to influence your behavior to fulfill that declaration of “truth.” For example, let’s say you’re nervous about giving a presentation and think to yourself, “I’ll probably forget all the words.” Then you probably will – you’re living “down” to a self-fulfilling prophecy. This phenomenon even has a name – the Golem effect. But if you tell yourself, “I’m excited to share what I know,” then you’re more likely to do well.
All this to say: If your end goal is to teach your kids to not take things without asking, to clean up after themselves, to shut the toilet lid when they’re done – using a label like “mean” or “messy” or “gross” won’t move you towards that goal. In fact, your words will paint a picture of the exact opposite outcome I want, effectively inviting your child to live “down” to that picture.
No matter the verb that come before the label, all labeling does is hurting your child and putting distance between your child and you.
3 Important Steps When Disciplining Your Kid
Here is a 3-step plan that will help disciplining your child without hurting their feelings or adding any labels:
- In through your nose – Breathe in because when you’re breathing in, you can’t say something you’ll regret.
- Report what you see – Pretend you’re a court reporter. Because she doesn’t see “mean” or “naughty” or “brat.” She sees: “You took a toy from your sister, then you hit her.” or “You threw the ball inside the house.” or “You colored on the dining room table with a Sharpie.”
- Ask for your child’s ideas on moving forward – Because you haven’t shamed your kid, her brain is open to learning from what happened. And you get a ready-made teachable moment plus an opportunity to develop your kid’s problem-solving skills. For example, you might ask, “How can you help your sister feel better?” or “What can you do next time you feel like throwing the ball?” or “How can we clean the table?” This isn’t a test or a lecture in the form of rhetorical questions. Wait for your kid to share an idea – and remember she’s still practicing at this problem-solving stuff so she may need a few more seconds than you’d expect. If she’s hesitant, you can reassure her, like this: “I know we can fix this together. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
How to Remember This 3-Step Trick When You Discipline Your Child
When your kid misbehaves or just behaves in a way you don’t like, just remember…IRA
IN through your nose, REPORT what you see, and ASK for your child’s ideas.
Can You Un-Stick a Bad Label?
Undo the label sticking by saying sorry to you kid and that you didn’t mean to say such mean words to them. Ask for forgiveness, wait until they say they forgive you and say thanks. A hug and a kiss would do no harm either, use and abuse abundantly!