Do you find yourself unconsciously labelling your children? It’s very easy to have “the clever one”, “the mischievious one”, “the baby” and so on… but surely the children will pick up on it, and heaven forbid, act as per the label they have been given?
From the time they are born, we have expectations of our children, even if we ourselves don’t realise it. You expect them to smile by a given milestone age, then roll, crawl, walk, talk… if they do, they are “advanced” and obviously have inherited your intellect and are destined to be a genius. If they don’t, well, they will at some point, won’t they?
My children come home from school and tell me about “Little Billy” who is the naughty one in their class, or “Jennie”, the clever one who always answers the questions. I remember from my own school days there was always one person who was known as the class clown, one the teacher’s pet… you get the idea.
So what about between siblings? Is it the same at home? And if they pick up on it at school, it’s not a hard leap for them to come to similar conclusions at home.
My children are very different in many ways (although very similar in others), but do the expectations we have of them, or the labels we put on them, influence their behaviour? I have been thinking about this lately, as Josh has been going through a slightly, ahem, “difficult” phase, and when he gets frustrated, he has a tendency to revert to babyish behaviour. For some reason I vividly remember an episode of Supernanny from years and years ago, where there was a little boy, of around 6, who acted up and behaved very immaturely, and Jo Frost attributed his behaviour to the fact that his mother constantly referred to the child as “my baby”. I don’t think I do this with Joshy, but maybe I do without realising?
And Ben is very advanced academically, so do I subconsciously have higher expectations of him, and what effect does this have on him? Does he feel under pressure to live up to his label, or pride at his status?
I think they are too young to ask how they feel about any expectations I may have of them, but I know I will always make sure they feel loved and wanted, and always know they can come and talk to me without me prejudging them.
How do you avoid labelling your children, and what advice can you offer?