Should Parents Label Their Kids?

Should Parents Label Their Kids?

Being young is such a fascinating time in everybody’s lives. There is so much learning and curiosity that it can get tough to satiate the need. Growing a colorful personality and gaining knowledge about the world is something that all kids should be guided towards. As people grow older, they tend to get jaded with the realities of the world and when they have their own babies, they tend to label them based on their own experiences and knowledge. Tagging kids with a name is something that happens as it can be attributed to human tendency. Usually, kids end up with this label for a long time amongst their peers and social group. The question that arises is should parents label their own kids? Are there any ill effects of labelling kids? Will it have a detrimental effect on their growth or is it a positive approach that helps them to carve out a personality? Although each case needs to be treated on its own, there are some pros and cons to labeling kids. Read our article to find out more about this.

Why Do Parents Label Kids?

Kids can be very complex beings and understanding them, their behavior, the things that they say and do can be difficult and challenging. Humans tend to prefer things with order and understanding. So, in order to better grasp their children’s personalities, they label them. This happens more so when they have conflicted feelings about the traits and behaviors of their children. While creating these so-called profiles and labeling them might have some benefits, it can also hinder the child’s development. The question that needs to be answered is if parents should stop labelling kids.

Labeling kids means referring to them by a specific term that indicates the child’s special needs or lets that they are naughty, etc. Labels are used to categorize children and these could be medical based, like ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or it could be administrative like “emotional and social difficulties”. Labels are also used in the educational system to compartmentalize children based on their educational requirements, academic ability and behavior. For example, a child that does not understand simple concepts will be labelled as special needs or a child that is a bit naughty will be labelled a troublemaker. A child who has difficulty with spelling and reading may be termed dyslexic,  and the unfortunate part is that these labels stick with them for a long time.

The Outcome of Labeling Children

Labeling children will have some repercussions because kids are intuitive and can pick up on things very quickly. Here are some reasons why parents should not label kids and situations where labelling might be okay.

Positive Outcomes

There are some positive aspects of labeling kids that might be helpful or provide a sort of aid for those in need. Some of these outcomes are as follows-

  1. Special needs: Some kids require special attention in life and this could be in the education department or even at home. Labeling allows parents and educators to identify those who require special attention.
  2. Education plans: Because of the above-mentioned labeling, caregivers are able to come up with individual plans that assist these kids with education. Providing extra support wherever it is required is one of the positive outcomes of labeling kids.
  3. Funding: Identifying these requirements can help chalk out a plan to get government support and/or funding so that caregivers can create and have resources to help these kids.
  4. Children’s behavior: Finding out where a child’s behavior stems from is a positive outcome from labeling because it allows others to be more tolerant and understanding of them. Recognizing a child’s need is important to be able to understand their personality.
  5. Support groups: Labeling allows kids with similar experiences to be grouped together. Peers can be helpful in providing not only them but also their families with the support that they may require.
  6. Medical labels: Medical labels and administrative labels allow kids to have access to extra resources so that they can get additional help and support that they need.

Negative outcomes

Negative outcomes of labeling kids

Like most pros and cons, labeling kids also has some negative effects and the list might be a bit longer than its positive counterpart.

  1. Low self-esteem: Labeling can make kids feel like they will not be able to do well and that they are stupid. This can lead to a sense of learned helplessness which in turn can cause them to have low self-esteem.
  2. Bullying: Labeling can cause kids to be treated differently in school, even amongst their peers, and can open the door to getting bullied for being different. Getting marginalized amongst peers and classmates because of a label that an adult has put on a child should be absolutely unacceptable.
  3. Chalking out their lives: Once kids listen to the same label over and over again about themselves, it manifests itself in such a way that the kids start thinking that about themselves even though the label might not be true. This is dangerous for the growth of a child as it can lead to trouble reconciling the real world with the opinion that their family has embedded into their young minds.
  4. Lowered expectations: Labeling kids can lead to others having low expectations from the child. Parents and teachers, both might end up thinking that the child is incapable and will not amount to much. This leads to problems with the child’s personality because if their caregivers and educators do not have faith in their abilities, the child will definitely not have it either.
  5. Getting teased:  Stemming from the bullying, the child might have to deal with their peers making fun of them for being learning disabled. This not only leads to children not being able to make friends but also makes the child less inclined to put in the work or want to go to school.
  6. Labels are for life: The sad part is that children will eventually grow up and keep changing, but the labels that they started with will always stick with them. It’s tough for kids to shake off labels and start afresh. Negative reputations tend to stick with children and they are not good for their mental and emotional growth.
  7. One dimensional approach: Children are not fully formed so to label them at such a young age is incorrect, to begin with. Each child has different traits and will grow up to have a different personality. Some might be loud or quiet, demanding, or even challenging. Labeling them when they are so young is the wrong thing to do.
  8. Pressure: Even with positive labels, kids can feel tremendous amounts of pressure to perform well. For example, If a child is constantly called a math prodigy, they will find that the pressure only increases as they grow older and it can reach a breaking point at some stage of their life.
  9. Understanding: Kids may not have the mental capacity to understand that labels are changeable. If they are called a certain label, over and over again, that is what they start believing in and it’s difficult to mindfully change that path that someone else has set for you. For example, a child who has been called artistic from the start might start to feel bad and stressed out if they realize that they are losing interest in the arts. It might make them feel like they are failing their purpose.

What If Kids Are Labeled With Some Positive Quality?

The next debate that comes up is whether there is any benefit in labeling kids with positive qualities. We have all understood the negative impacts of labeling kids, but what if the labels themselves are positive. Will that be beneficial to the upbringing of the child? The important thing to remember is to not repetitively label kids. If the idea behind labeling is to give the child some praise, it can be beneficial because it helps them understand that those qualities are important to be a part of society. While giving positive labels can be helpful, kids should also know about other qualities as well. Feeling angry or sad and other such emotions, which might be perceived as less desirable by society are qualities that need understanding by kids. This is more important when the child is receiving praise for all the good stuff. Pointing out similar good qualities in other kids also helps the child to integrate with something larger than themselves. A child should be able to feel and reciprocate with feelings that are all over the spectrum, not just the good ones. It is important to mold them into holistic humans with a colorful social palette.

Now that we have understood the different effects of labeling kids, parents should try and avoid specific labels that might target the personality of the child. They should make it a point to keep the labels as broad as possible. While reinforcing positive behavior through labels might be okay to a certain extent, it is vital to make sure that kids understand other “negative” emotions and how to deal with them. It is okay for kids to not perform at their peak and to feel angry or sad from time to time without the fear of being judged. This information gives them the confidence and freedom to truly discover and understand themselves. Labels end up limiting kids’ potential and many kids spend their adult lives trying to get out of those labels. To provide them with a safe and dynamic environment to thrive and succeed is what every parent should strive to achieve. Every child is special because there is no other child like them in the whole world and parents should make sure that they are not being tied down by labels so as to not achieve their maximum potential. We hope our article has helped you understand this topic a bit better. Children are wonders and they should be treated as such. All the best to you!

Also Read:

What is the Role of Environment in Child Development?
Child Psychology: Tips for Understanding Your Child Better
Stages of Child Development

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Gauri Ratnam completed her Masters in English Literature from the University of Pune. She began her journey as a German translator soon after completing her graduation, but later moved on to pursue her passion for writing. Having written for both digital and print media in a varied range of industries, she has the ability to write relatable and well-researched content, benefical for anyone seeking advice or direction.