Labels can Hurt


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt


Of all the hurtful, demeaning names we –far too often—cast at our children, this seems to me to be one of the most hurtful, and one that follows a child into adulthood. If a child hears this often enough, he will believe it always.  No matter how gifted he may be in other areas of life, he’s just a klutz. Bull in a china shop. Can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.


What we believe must be the truth about ourselves becomes a deeply-rooted image.  We do our children a great disservice when we say , “Oh, she’s the funny one, and she’s the quiet serious one.”  Or “He’s artistic.  She can’t draw a straight line.” Or, Well, her gift is (fill in the blank)  but we haven’t figured out her brother’s gift yet.”

We really need to be careful how we label our kids, even if we think it’s positive. Comparing them to each other is just not profitable. Each one is different from the other. Each one comes packaged with a unique personality. A first child has the advantage here, because all the rest of the children will inevitably be seen in terms of what “Oldest Child” has been, said, or done at the same age.  I don’t buy 100% into the “oldest–middle–youngest–child” theories. It’s impossible to have a set model that never alters from one child to the next.  However, there are times, with my clients, when I have asked, “So where do you come in birth order?”  Inevitably they will tell me what I was already thinking.

The thing to take with you from this little ramble is this: Please be careful about the labels you sew into your children’s  perception of themselves. Those perceptions can last a lifetime. They can keep a child from trying something just because he’s always been clumsy.


8 thoughts on “Labels can Hurt

  1. Yea & Amen!

    Being left alone to fend for myself for most of my childhood I never learned anything about home-making. When Mom was home, rather than teaching, she just left me be and did it all herself. Likely it was easier. Kids are that way.

    So apart from the usual nasty labels like stupid and useless my Dad often told me, “You’re so lazy! When you grow up you’re live in a pigpen.” And that one really stuck. No matter how clean things are, I’ve never gotten over the image that my house is “filthy.”

    I’m sure his motive was noble; he meant to urge me to more industriousness and neatness. Unfortunately this criticism hasn’t motivated me to become a clean freak. Perhaps it has that effect on some women, but his words never produced anything more than constant shame. Over the years, I’ve had to work around them or I’d just give up.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We weren’t perfect parents by any means and through our criticisms we probably gave our daughter some negative self-image, but we did learn this one lesson. Frustrated words like, “Why can’t you be more careful,” yes, but neither of us ever called her demeaning names.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There is so much truth here! I could write example after example from my own life, things I still, at almost 50 years old, struggle with daily, but I won’t. I will just say, as parents, teachers, grandparents, adult authority figures, we need to guard our words! What may seem like an innocent comment or good natured kidding to us can feel devastating to a child or teen.

    Liked by 1 person

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