Ah the famous stereotypes! These labels that we quickly put on the back of our child: “You suck” – “You are selfish” – “You are angry” – “You don’t know how to sing” – “You are fearful” – “You are shy” – “This is not for you” – etc.
It sometimes takes little for a child to convince himself that he is too “like this” or not enough “like that”. And the worst is that the more he will be convinced of it, the more he will conform to this image, to consolidate himself in this vision of himself. A real vicious circle! But where does it come from? So we go
First, these stereotypes, these labels that we get stuck on, lead us to misinterpret things and to exaggerate them.
For example, if, by dint of having been qualified as null in French, I see myself as such, I will take to heart all the little thoughts that they will be able to give me. (While someone else wouldn’t have paid particular attention to it). I go focus my attention on that and tell me that in fact, I’m really not good at French!
Second, these stereotypes drive us into false beliefs, which decreases our energy to fight and manage to “peel off” these labels.
For a good part of people (the majority in fact), being convinced of being bad in French, will not motivate them to work on this subject. We say to ourselves: “What’s the point? It’s a fact: I suck, that’s how it is ”. So we don’t waste our energy trying to improve.
Likewise, if, in the general opinion, I am “angry”, and I convince myself that this image is true, I would have great difficulty no longer being so. Taking up a challenge that we think is already lost deep down is very complicated. How can you find the energy to fight if you think you have lost in advance? We then tend to to resign oneself and to accept to endorse this label of “angry”, even if it makes us unhappy.
This even applies to physical criteria! If I am convinced that I can please, that I can be beautiful and seduce, I would not have at all the same posture as a person who sees himself and thinks he is ugly. The way I dress, behave, the confidence I can have, will really influence the image I send to others. Convinced of being beautiful, I will become so in the eyes of those around me.
The more people are convinced that they are something, the more likely they are to really become it.
The gaze of the other influences our abilities
For example, at work, for two colleagues at the same level, the boss’s vision and behavior will have a huge influence on their development and progression.
If, in the first case, the manager finds only the errors and is convinced that his subordinate is not made for this job, then this one will be demotivated. He may lack self-confidence, and the quality of his work will suffer.
On the contrary, if the manager is convinced that his collaborator is excellent, if he highlights his successes and believes in his ability to progress, then it will be a real booster for him!
To resist this, we should be able to develop a real strength of character that allows us to be impervious to the judgment of others and to believe in ourselves no matter what.
These labels that prevent our children from moving forward!
For our child, it’s the same! Of course, we are not his manager, but he is also a human being, and we operate much the same. And then, from the point of view of our little one, if Papa or Mum who loves us the most in the world tells us that we are here or that, they are necessarily right, right?
The more we (and therefore) convince ourselves that he is selfish, timid, angry, clumsy, fearful, etc., the more he will conform to this stereotype. And the more he will take on this role that has been assigned to him… and the less energy he will have to manage to be different 🥺.
“Stop being shy again!”, “You’re an ugly little boy”, “Can’t you take care every now and then? Every time, you spill your glass! ”,“ And you always stop doing your little chef! ”,“ What are you annoying! ”,“ Can’t you lend your stuff for once? ”
Judgments that are not without consequence
No, our child is NOT shy / angry / unbearable / etc. But, in one case, WE may find him shy / angry / etc. (another parent, in the same situation, might not make the same judgment). And if we tend to react with this type of remarks to make him stop his behavior, it may work right away, but it will tend to worsen the trait in the future!
Rather than generalizing, we can try to qualify our remarks and replace “you are shy (always and forever)” by “I saw that you did not dare to go to the children…”.
We can also focus our child’s attention on the times when he is NOT shy / angry / etc. Thus, we will be able to persuade him that he is able to be confident / serene / generous / attentive, etc. He will have more room to learn and believe for himself that he can do it.
Moreover, our attitude is often essential to help our child develop his self-confidence. Because I have asked myself these questions for a long time and I have done a lot of research, I have brought together all my findings and tips in a special file: the “SELF-CONFIDENCE” PACK: Everything for our little ones to believe in them. If you are interested, please let me know by simply entering your email below, and I will send it to you for free.
So how can we avoid sticking labels on the backs of our children? Four exercises to get there …
Of course, when we stick these labels on them, when we put them in the boxes, we do not do it on purpose by saying it is well done for him. On the other hand, there are fairly simple ways to help us react differently. Here are 4 exercises to change our posture! (And the secret is not to understand them, but to put them into practice 😉). It is because I know that moving forward on my own is not easy that I wanted to create the Cool Boost : collective coaching where we advance each month on different themes. Because to change, it is better to take small steps every day, than to read the complete library of positive parenting 😉. In addition, the Cool Parents community offers super loving support and great group energy. But I’ll let you make up your mind, all the info is here 👉.
Exercise 1 / Changing the way we speak
The first suggestion to help our child get rid of labels is to try to change what we say to him. The objective is to focus on the present case, rather than on generalities.
For example, we can replace at most the “You” by the “I”.
- So, “You are slow! It’s not nice not to have put your shoes on when I asked you to! I’m going to be late for the office ”becomes“ I wish you had put your shoes on when I asked you so that we wouldn’t be late this morning ”.
- “You’re selfish” becomes “It’s a shame, I would have liked you to share your ice cream with me”. (see also our article How can I help my child to become generous and altruistic?)
Exercise 2 / Changing the LOOK we have on our child
If we are deeply convinced that our child is selfish, no matter how hard we try to turn our sentences correctly, our behavior will always end up betraying our thoughts (we will not be able to help but get angry or roll our eyes the next. time he refuses to lend a toy to his boyfriend).
When a character trait of our child annoys us, the best way to allow it to evolve is to persuade it that it is capable of being the opposite of this defect in order to give it the strength to become so. Thus, he can be selfish / shy / unbearable / clumsy / slow at times, but he also has the abilities to be generous / at ease / serene / brilliant / agile / fast etc. But for that we must first convince OURSELVES of it!
But how do I convince myself that my child is not selfish when he really is? Abandoning labels and stereotypes starts with changing the image we have of our own child. And the good news: we all have the power to change that perception.
Here is the third exercise. Be careful, it requires an effort at the beginning, and then it becomes easier… (however, if it were that easy, everyone would do it 😉.)
Exercise 3 / Identify the positive behaviors of our child
First, let’s note what hurts us in our child’s behavior, those particular moments when what he does annoys us (note what he does, and not him in general 😉). This will allow us to identify the labels that we tend to stick to it.
Then, during the day, focus our attention on times when our child’s behavior goes against these labels (eg: I find him selfish, but at the park, I saw him share his snack). I write down all these little moments (for example in the “Notes” app on my phone or in a notebook).
Can’t identify these positive behaviors? Come on, a little effort! Think back to all the moments we spent together at the end of the day. And in the morning, remember to do this little work. I am sure you will find it! Because it is simply IMPOSSIBLE that a child absolutely NEVER listens, gesticulates ALL THE TIME, etc.
The more we exercise our mind to see our child in a new way, the more we will believe in his ability to contradict these famous labels, and we will be able to focus on what bothers us in a specific situation, instead of going beyond generalities ( see exercise 1).
Exercise 4 / See the positive side of our child’s “faults” to better accept them
It is often difficult to visualize the positive side of our child’s “flaws”. And yet, each medal has its reverse …
- Thus, “He does not listen” can be seen as “he is independent”, “he wants to do his own way”.
- “He is violent”> “he protects his territory”, “he wants to mark his individuality”. (see also our article for avoiding or managing temper tantrums).
- “He is shy”> “he is reserved and takes the time to observe before entering into a relationship”. (Shy child: how to help him come out of his shell?)
- and conversely, doesn’t being “generous” or “kind” run the risk of forgetting yourself, not daring to assert yourself, say no or set limits?
And we, as great adults that we are, we have certain faults that we have learned to accept and which sometimes protect us from something! 😉
In short, ultimately, nothing is all black or all white. Taking a step back allows us to better explain things …
So, do we take them off, these labels?
Having a beautiful image of our children feels so good! To them and to us by the way 😉!
I invite you to do these little exercises first and foremost for yourself ! Your daily life with your children will be so much better if you have a positive image of them. It will go a long way in beautifying your relationship.
What if a “You’re not nice!” keep coming out every now and then, don’t whip yourself. If you realize it, it is already a huge step. As I told you, changing your gaze requires a real effort and it does not happen in the blink of an eye. It takes time to acquire the right reflexes, every little step counts and shows that you are on the right track.