Stop Labeling Kids: Empowering Them with What We Didn’t Have

Ever wonder “Should I label my kids?”

How about “Should I tell everyone my kid is Autistic/has ADHD/insert any number of things here?”

Us parents, we’re constantly worrying about what’s best for our children and how we can help them. This is a great thing to be worrying about. Except for when we take it a little too far. We often forget that our kids, just want to be kids. They don’t care about much else.

And yet, we do.

Even unconsciously pushing our current political or religious opinions on them like it has to be law. That’s when things get really strong and we take away our kids autonomy. We take away their creativity and imagination that could lead them into great things.

Am I saying that they shouldn’t be around our convictions? That would be pretty damn difficult wouldn’t it? They live with us after all. Making sure they can have a different opinion than you is what they are missing and what we don’t allow. It’s been this way for centuries.

We especially do this when we’re trying to explain away their behavior. Unfortunately, it’s not always to the kiddos benefit.

Kids are vulnerable starting at a young age. They digest everything we say and do… why else do we find hilarious videos of kids cursing? Being so young, they don’t even realize the nature of what they say or do half of the time. Mom & Dad sure do and laugh or give a response that lights up their little brains and says keep doing it!

Labeling kids

Now you’re wondering what this has to do with labeling our kids?

It’s pretty simple, the more you go around labeling them the more they pick up on it and the more they embody it. As they get older, those labels become ingrained in them. It becomes subconscious. Second-nature.

I imagine that many of you still reading this are thinking about your childhood right now. So, let’s do some examples…

Ever told that you just weren’t great at spelling? As an adult you find yourself using spellcheck more than others?

It’s okay hun, you aren’t that great at reading. Adulthood hits and you only like Audiobooks because you can’t focus on reading anything longer than a social post?

Ehhhh, you don’t need to focus on sports because you couldn’t hit a ball if it was a giant target on the side of a barn. As your kids start sports, you begin to tell them that it’s alright because you weren’t good at them either.

Stop labeling children

Imagine how that is with a diagnosis for kids.

Our kids CAN and WILL overcome anything, as long as they are given the opportunity. They don’t have to be perfect or win awards. It’s perfectly fine for them to be mediocre or to be slow at something. What they will care about the most, will be your reaction to how they are doing.

When they are little, they want your attention. They will get it anyway they can. If we back them up by continuing to let them know that it’s okay not to be perfect at everything and not be labeled, then they will follow those footsteps.

We have a young man in Boo’s Battalion who was unable to sit still and focus during our rally points at all. That was during the very first meetings. He was very shy and also experienced moments of stimming. We embraced him, not by labeling him but by labeling the behavior and working with him.

For his shyness, we let him know that it was perfectly okay to sit back and watch a bit. I still gently prodded him to participate, but he was a little unsure. With his stimming, we just perceived it as normal until he was comfortable with us.

After that first week, he stopped being shy. All it took was showing him that he could be himself around us. That we wouldn’t judge or label him. Within 3 months, instead of stimming when overwhelmed he would ‘do the rainbow’ (a meditative technique we talk about). A year later and he is memorizing things, asking great questions, stimming less, doing better in school and most importantly he’s making friends because he’s not being told that he has to be something specific.

That boy is a young one, so he still has his whole childhood in front of him to learn other things. To be someone great.

Nowadays, I see constantly in social media parents just having found out that their child is Autistic or some other neurodivergent diagnosis and the conversation is always - should I respect my child and not tell anyone.

Empowering kids

Yes. The answer is always yes. 

In fact, as we do in our house, it’s best to hardly use the diagnosis at all. Focus on the behaviors that need help. The eating, the tantrums, the episodes or whatever they may be. Work through those with your child/teen instead of just saying “it’s okay you’re neurodivergent.”

Who should know about their diagnosis?

  • Immediate family

  • Caregivers

  • Doctors

  • Teachers (only if they have issues in school with behaviors)

Outside of that, unless there’s something going really wrong with a playdate, it should remain private information.

I know that’s hard to hear. 

We should be raising kids to dispel labels and not be put into tiny boxes. A generation of children that will be more creative, more empathetic, more logical and more themselves than any of us have had the opportunity to be.

I can wait to see our future generations and the amazing things they will do because they were truly given freedom from preconceived notions!

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