‘Our kids will live what they see and hear’–Jim
Recently I had an epiphany–a sudden flash of insight that struck me right in the heart. I immediately knew that this was one of those life changing events that come only so often. I also realized that I do this and I have to stop. I don’t do it consciously and I don’t do it to be mean or to hurt anyone. However, the outcomes certainly can, and often are, the same.
What I am referring to is the act of ‘labelling’. We label music, literature, other people, our own kids, our partners, medical assessments and diagnosis, movies, fashion, personal appearances, different preferences, odd behaviour and the list goes on. We have an almost insatiable need to label things so that we can then place them in a slot so that we can then deal with them as we have for so often. In this case it is by using labels such as as silly, stupid, ugly, awful, useless, dumb, freakish, terrible, disgusting, poor, not up to standards, lazy and again the list could continue on for a bit. As parents or citizens or neighbours we need to keep in mind that once something or someone has been labelled that label sticks for a long time-sometimes for ever.
Adults, if we don’t like current clothing styles will often find a derogatory comment to make about them like they are ‘slutty’ looking; make reference to a hair style that makes you look like a moron or stupid; to music that sounds like two cats wailing at each other; to movies which aren’t like they used to be. In my time that’s when movies were really good and not like this crap; to literature that has no soul and is all the same; to what’s with all the tattoos or the body piercings. You look like a walking junk yard. These and similar responses are likely about the parents/adults comfort zone and their inability to accept or understand that things have changed. Parents most often see their kids as an extension of themselves when in public. If the kids are messing up that falls on the parents. However, and perhaps with good intentions, their remarks are mostly damaging, demeaning not very constructive. They end up creating a real sense of doubt and acceptance in our kids regarding their attempt to be accepted into the world they live in. With no sense of acceptance or connectedness a growing sense of detachment, loneliness and isolation develops. With no place to belong a deepening sense of depression often follows. Some times this can lead to suicide, erratic behaviour, sexually acting out, destructive behaviour, violence, gang membership and a great deal of the time the kid becomes a bully. He has a need to inflict his will and his anger and confusion on others. He/she may also want to feel in control over others to show they have power too.
I encourage you to think about some of the following:
–Most labels serve to marginalize, limit or disparage someone or something. It may not be your goal but it is often the outcome of labelling?
–Any type of mental health label is like a life sentence that follows you around. It shows up on doctors reports, school records and insurance forms for example. To say,”He has mental health issues” can mark him/her as unemployable and in many cases makes it difficult to enjoy a ‘normal’ educational experience. Let behaviour be the guide to determine the level someone can function at. It’s like water seeking it’s own level. If you are labelled as exceptional or gifted the expectations made of you are often times unfair and disproportionate and extremely difficult to live up to.
–Why do we feel the need to label ourselves or others according to religious beliefs? It’s really no ones business. Personally I don’t need or want to be known as an Atheist, a Catholic, a Muslim, a Protestant, or a Republican, a Democrat, a Liberal or a Conservative for that matter. Unfortunately, when these labels are exposed, we make them into a ‘my dad can beat up your dad’ thing. How childish is that. Friendships and relationships often succeed or fail based on these labels. I’d rather be seen as a decent human being who tried to make this a better place to live. Label me that if you must label me at all. We are supposed to be the adults. We run into trouble when we try to force others to see things as we see them and they don’t agree with us. Can’t we simply agree to disagree and move on.
So when we become frustrated and emotionally charged when dealing with our kids and the changes that they make, sometimes daily, think about the comments and the labels we attach to our response(s) to them and to their behaviour. When we call him/her a ‘dumb-ass’ or a ‘punk’; when we make reference to them being lazy, stupid or ridiculous looking; when we get critical of some of the choices they make around music, that their drawers are actually hanging where their socks are meant to be, the fact that they can’t figure out which is the front or the back of a hat they just put on think about the damage you might just be doing by not taking another tact. There is a difference between inviting them into your world to present an alternative life view and demanding or insisting on accepting yours as the only alternative. Your motivation may not be at fault but the use of ‘labels’ will stick to them for the rest of their lives.
Anyways, that’s how I see it–Jim
As always comments are welcomed and please pass this along to others–thanks