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Ditch the labels: 4 steps to develop your child’s self-confidence

You wouldn’t intentionally put your children down or stifle their growth. This can happen if you use labels.

Ditch the labels: 4 steps to develop your child’s self-confidence

Identities are forged early in life. Labels often cement them, not always for the good.


What were your labels growing up? Were you the good one, the fat one, the skinny one, the smart one, the athlete? The one with ADD, the outspoken one, the shy one, the messy one, the risk-taker?

When asked to describe yourself, many of you will use a childhood label. Maybe you feel like you’ve been boxed in by labels your whole life.

The upside of certain labels, is that they are shorthand to describe a bigger picture. In conversation, we no longer have to say that someone is inattentive, can’t sit still or is impulsive. Now we call it ADHD. Everyone has a basic idea of what that means.

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The problem arises when a label becomes your identity. I am the older of two children. I was the quiet one, the good one, the sensitive one. Still am. Everyone joked that all it took was a sideways look to make me cry.

My brother is the one who pushed back, the rebel, the risk-taker (relatively speaking). He talked about buying a motorcycle and joining the military. (He bought the motorcycle, but did not enlist).

One year he had to go to summer school, not because the subject was so difficult, but because he slacked off. (I could never let that happen; I was ‘the good one’. Trust me, it’s not always a blessing.)

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that when you label children they usually take it to heart and see themselves as the label. That identity can become deeply ingrained, defining their place in family and relationships, and how they show up in the world. The children learn how they are seen by others, without learning who they really are.

Children take their cues from the adults in their life. They trust that those adults are speaking the truth and they take it seriously. And they carry it for life.

You want your children to have a wonderful life, full of variety, accomplishments and satisfying relationships. You tell them they can have, be and do anything. Putting them in a box with labels creates just the opposite, stunting their emotional growth and keeping them from uncovering their strengths. Staying in the box keeps them from discovering what makes them unique. (Watch the video of “Little Boxes” by Pete Seeger.)

Some children take the label and use it as an excuse for withdrawing or not applying themselves:

  • I’m such a klutz, I’ll never be any good at football. Why bother?
  • ADD/LD is why I can’t do this.
  • I’m shy, so why put myself in the uncomfortable position of meeting new people?
  • I’m the screw-up in the family. They don’t believe I’ll do anything good. If my own family doesn’t believe in me, I guess it must be true.

You wouldn’t intentionally put your children down or stifle their growth. This can happen if you use labels.

Practice this instead:

1. Observe yourself. Notice when you are using any kind of label.

2. Observe the kids, carefully. Watch for verbal, physical and energetic changes.

3. Notice patterns. Which of your child’s attitudes and behaviors trigger you to use the label?

4. Change your perspective and words. Remember that words are powerful and that your child is doing the best she can (even though it may not seem that way). Respond with an observation of a specific instance, rather than a generalization (the label).

What does #4 sound like?

Replace: You’re such a procrastinator. Why can’t you just get it done?

With: You seem to have trouble getting started. What would be helpful right now

Replace: You’re shy.

With: I see how uncomfortable you are with people you don’t know well.

If there’s something familiar about these examples, it’s because you’ve seen this technique before. It’s called acknowledging, or reflecting. You’re describing what you see at a given moment. There is no judgment, criticism or fixing. There is no labeling, simply a statement of fact. The key is going from the global to the specific and how you express it.

When you stop using labels, you let your child out of the box. She is freer to explore herself and her world, without self-judgment and limiting beliefs.

Originally posted on Fern Weiss.

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

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    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

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    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

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    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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