If you scroll down this post you will see two photos of my 4.5 year old daughter proudly wearing her brothers clothes. For a few weeks, my little girl who would always (and I mean every.single.time) choose to wear a dress or a skirt for the day wore nothing but shorts and t-shirts.
But what does that matter? (Well, first of all it actually doesn’t…) BUT it does help me make a point about labelling!
You see, anyone who knows my daughter would agree that she could very easily be labelled a “girly girl” or a “pretty princess”. For the last 2 years, she has definitely been very interested in all things pink and glittery. And while that is something we definitely allow her to explore and recognise as an interest of hers we have been quite careful not to label her based on these interests.
While we don’t particularly encourage her pink and glitter exploration we also don’t discourage it, we stay quite neutral about it and allow her to lead the way. I would say we treat it just like any other interest she might have and I truly believe it’s her right to explore what she gravitates towards.
Unfortunately, with the “girly” world comes a lot of “trash” in my opinion, where messages are being sent to little girls that I don’t agree with. So, while I honour her interest, I do take the role of a sort of filter to try and filter out some of the “trash”. For us, that means we don’t buy the Barbie or Bratz dolls, or allow her to watch all the princess and pony movies out there. We don’t buy the commercial toys or the make-up kits (!!!)
Instead, she is most definitely allowed to explore the world of pink and glitter in other ways. We buy her beautiful costumes, glittery capes and she’s allowed to watch real ballerinas dancing on stage, for example. In general, though, we try to keep it fairly neutral and I’m quite happy with how I’ve been able to balance it thus far. At least she hasn’t complained!
But the point about labelling is the one I really wanted to make! (Got a little sidetracked there for a minute!)
SO, like I mentioned before, in our case it would be extremely easy to call our daughter “our little princess”, talk about “how she is so girly” or automatically always choose the girly version of all the things we need to buy for her, instead of neutrally giving her the option and not always assuming she’ll go for the glitter explosion.
I’ve come to realise that in so many ways we label our children in our daily lives, with the way we talk or interact with them, and most of the time, we do it totally without realising it! What I love about trying to avoid actively labelling my children is the freedom I believe it gives them to change and grow.
What I love about trying to avoid actively labelling my children is the freedom I believe it gives them to change and grow.
Although my daughter is still very much into the world of pink and glitter, she has been exploring dressing herself (VERY) differently for the past few days. The girl who would ONLY wear dresses now goes looking for her old shorts, and the best part about it all is that no one around her even comments on it or makes a big deal out of it…
It would be so easy to make a big deal out of it:
“Hah! See! Ylfa is wearing shorts today!”
“You look so different!”
“Are you trying to be like your brother?”
Although these comments are meant well and may be seen as innocent, they reinforce a label, the idea that (in this case) dressing herself in blue shorts is “out of the norm” for her. One good way that helps with avoiding putting labels on our children is to treat every day as a new day, a clean slate where our children are free to rediscover themselves, grow and be whatever they feel like in that moment.
In that mindset there is no “out of the norm” because there is no particular norm. To treat everything like a phase and be ready, or better yet, to expect things to change, is a very freeing mindset, for everyone involved! The way we think about our children colours how we treat them and react to them, and our labels can have great influence.
The fact is that labels are always limiting, even the positive ones. Our labels put children in boxes, in “categories”, that can be hard to break free from. When we start to parent intentionally and become more mindful of our thoughts. Something like examining the labels we have put on our children becomes such an interesting and eye- opening process!
I don’t think we can ever be completely free from having labelling thoughts about our children (or ourselves and the world in general for that matter!) since that’s simply how our brain works, (putting things in categories helps us make sense of the world!)
That doesn’t mean we can’t free up a lot of the labels we have in place. We are definitely in control of our thought patterns! Just becoming more mindful of the way we think, talk, and treat our children when it comes to labelling, will be greatly beneficial to their ever- growing nature.
If our goal is to support our children in becoming their authentic self (which I believe should be one of our ultimate goals as parents) I think letting go of labels is definitely a great step to take on that journey.