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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Breaking Free of Labels

Would you stop being so dramatic! That's a phrase I can remember hearing from my earliest childhood moments. You see, I have always been the dramatic one. Always too sensitive, too emotional, to easily wounded, to fiery and hot tempered and too easy a target to make fun of being that I am a very expressive person and you never have to wonder what I may be feeling. Odds are you're gonna have to hear about it....ALL about it!

I been reading a book about sibling rivalry. It's titled Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. There a section in it about not predetermining your child's roles for them, i.e. She's the responsible one, she's the shy one, He's the bully, He's the momma's boy. It has really struck me especially since I vowed I would NEVER label my kids as I had been labeled.

I wish I could say that I indeed do not label my kids, but the sad analysis of the data has caused me to come to the conclusion that I do. It may not be as often as I was labeled or even in the same way, but I do label them just the same.

What's so wrong with labels you might ask. At first glance they may seem to be harmless but if you take another look there are a few things which may cause some concern. I have committed to change. Here's what challenged me:

1) I could spend a lifetime trying to unravel the complex nature and personalities of each of my children but in the end I am not their creator, so what right have I to determine with any amount of decisiveness what their "jobs" are in life, what they are best at, or what they were meant to do? As a parent I think the best I can hope for is to learn more about what God already has planned for them by engaging in serious prayer to that extent daily. After all... His plans have already been made if I want to be an effective mother who trains my children up in the way they should go then I ought to be sure I am praying and seeking the Lord's direction, but in doing that i must always leave room for god to change course. I can't become so overly confident that I loose my flexibility in the matter. After all, how many times has God changed the direction of my life....... too many to count!

2) In the pursuit of studying my children's strengths and weaknesses I should never look at any particular weakness as being permanent. To do so would fly in the face of what God has taught me about His redemptive nature and His power to renew us. If I stop believing in growth, healing and change for my children or in any particular situation with which they may be struggling what kind of faith am I modeling for them?

3) The book makes a case that there are three ways in which people find themselves labeled. A) the parents have labeled the child, B) the child has given himself a label or C) the siblings have labeled the child. In all three cases guess who's job it is to correct the problem? Yep, the parents! The key to change is recognizing the label and how it is acted out, then reverse the action. this begins in us. We need to ask the question do I in some small way believe this to be true and do I perpetuate it with actions or behaviors that reaffirm this label? The book has lots of examples from real families and practical ideas for reversing the habits.

4) To label a child by their strengths and weaknesses may discourage any attempts to strengthen their weaknesses. It may squelch any small flicker of desire before it can be flamed.

In some cases these labels can also create competition within our families. Either because of the burden to perpetuate the fulfillment of the earned title, like that of "the good one" which may manifest itself in feelings which may say " I cannot ever express my emotions especially if they are negative ones because I am the good one and it's expected that I am always fine."In other cases the resentment of the other child who hasn't been labeled may cause them to feel they can never attain to being like their labeled sibling and may result in them picking argument with their sibling or worse yet, decide that "if I can't do it as good as sister/brother I won't try at all."

These are just a few of the reason I am committing to removing all traces or labels in our home. The world will label my children enough as it is, most of the time without merit or reason. Often times merely by appearances. There's never an end to the people of this life who tout the message of "couldn't, wouldn't , shouldn't," and "no , don't, can't and stop." Do I really want to add my own voice to the chorus of negativity my children will hear in their life?



Stacey said...

Wow Jen, that really made me stop and think about how I label my kids. It's so hard not to at times! Thanks for making me stop and think about this today!!

Julie said...

Wow. That is so convicting. I know I am guilty of this in a major way. Definitely need to get that book.

Your emotional honesty and expressiveness is one of the things I love most about you!

P.S. I was "the dramatic one" too :-)