Mislabeling Our Children

I personally know a young lady who was labelled as stupid, ugly, and clumsy during her childhood. Her parents and relatives often used those negative words to describe her and therefore, she grew up believing that she is indeed stupid, ugly, and clumsy.

Hearing all those discouraging words for so many years in her life had affected her self-esteem and self-worth. She became very quiet, timid and insecure. And it took her so long to recover from the pain and prove that her family is wrong.

Now she is happily married with a man who truly loves her. She is cheerful, friendly, and energetic. And she is definitely not stupid, ugly, and clumsy, like what her family used to describe her.

One thing that I learn from her story is that negative labels are very discouraging and they affect our children’s growth badly. Social research indicates that those who have negative labels usually have lower self-images, are more likely to reject themselves, and may even act more deviantly as a result of the label.

Children will always believe what their parents say. No matter if it is a good or bad thing about them, and no matter if the parents are serious or just ‘kidding’. They will take it as it is, believe it and carry it with them as they grow.

There are few labels that my husband and I choose not to use on our children, such as: stupid, lazy, ugly, greedy and naughty. However, by not using negative labels doesn’t mean that we cover their wrong doings and do nothing about them.


Alex used a ball to hit his friend’s head purposely. I could have said “Alex, you are so naughty! Can you please say sorry now?” or “You are such a naughty boy, Alex.” But I prefer to respond and say to him “Alex, hitting your friend on the head is rude and wrong. You need to apologize to him now and don’t do it again.” I rather label the action (hitting his friend) as rude and wrong, than label him as a naughty boy.

And after some conversations with him, we then realized that he actually wanted to invite his friend to play ball together but he just did not know how. So we took this opportunity to teach him the proper way to invite friends to play together, like saying “Let’s play” or “Come on, let’s play together”.

Honestly, sometimes I think that we label our children as naughty boys/girls too easily. We say that they are naughty when they are actually just being active, curious, or being ‘children’.

There are still so many other negative labels that we, parents, prone to use on our children. And you might want to ponder on what negative labels that you often use at home and re-think about it.

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