Emerging from the Label

This week in New Zealand the parents of school age children sighed a collective sigh of relief as the little cherubs returned to school for the beginning of the school year.
Don’t get me wrong - holidays are great but by the end of the holidays when all the toys have been played with, the books have been read, the parents are broke from activities and trips, and the sibling fighting is beginning to get out of hand, the beginning of the school year is a blessing for all except the teachers!

For our household it was the beginning of a new school and a new kindergarten after our move to the city, so excitement levels were high but also equally were the anxiety levels and fear of all the new. For the week before, our conversations at the dinner table and those tender moments before lights out at bedtime had been focussed on talking through all of the new things, the expectations, the worries, the feelings etc and we were doing our best to prepare their little hearts for the big changes.

On the morning of Mr 4’s first day at kindy I was blown away by a short conversation I overhead at breakfast between Mr 4 and Miss 7.
During the conversation Mr 4 said “but I’m shy” to which Miss 7 immediately responded with “no Jossie, you just need more courage”.
My smile was so big when I heard that! She gets it! We’ve been on the BraveGirl journey for 2 years and the language in our household and our attitude towards challenges has changed and I could not be happier.

Here’s the thing…

We live under labels. 
Sometimes those labels are negative, sometimes they are self-inflicted and sometimes they are put on us by others. Labels are all around us and all over us and if we let them they can define our lives and how we live them.

Mr 4 finds new situations and meeting new people a challenge, he is one of those kids who hides behind our legs until he gets used to the new people and the situation. He takes a while to warm up to things, meet new people and make friends. He is shy. That is the label we use to explain that kind of behaviour, BUT if he lives under that label it gives him an excuse to not try to meet new people and try new experiences. The label of ‘shy’ reveals a need for more courage. If the focus becomes building up his courage then his challenge becomes something to get through rather than avoid or run away from.

I wonder how many of us use our labels as excuses to avoid or run away from things we find hard? In our household we acknowledge when things are hard and all the feelings that come along with that, but we always follow up with the statement “we can do hard things!”

The labels we live under reveal a need for more of something. Sometimes those labels give us an excuse to avoid or run away from hard things. What labels are you living under?
What is it that you need more of in order to get through a challenging situation rather than avoiding it or running away from it? I want to encourage you to let that need become your focus rather than the excuse of the label. You can do hard things!

And if you are a parent:
What labels are defining your child? 
What is the need behind the label than you can focus on building into their lives.
What language needs to change in your household to create an environment for your child to rise up to challenges rather than avoid or run away?

If you are needing another example to explain this then let me share with you what we are focussing on right now with Miss 7.  The label that best describes it is ‘tattletale’ or ‘snitch’ - basically any problem that happens to her or to someone else is promptly reported to Mum, Dad or teacher or just the nearest adult! So we need to be careful to not keep reinforcing the label by saying “Don’t be a tattletale” but to look for the need behind it.  We have decided that she needs to learn to problem-solve and so this is becoming our focus.  We are changing our language and using opportunities available to teach her and encourage her to solve the problem herself.  
For example, instead of ‘don’t be a tattletale’ asking ‘how can you sort it out yourself?’.  Please note that we are not experts and in no way telling you how to parent but just sharing our journey and what we are working on.  I’d love to hear from you if you have examples of how you are combating negative labels in your household - just leave a comment below and we can learn together! 

So whether it is for you or for the way your parent your children, I want to encourage you to come out from the excuses of the label and turn your focus to developing the need behind it. It might be really hard but WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!

With love and courage,
xx Steph xx


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  1. Carla on 13 Feb 1:45 p.m.

    I love this Steph! Our current challenge is not labelling L ourselves! Brushing her hair, putting in clips/pony tails "ohh pretty," "who is a pretty girl?" etc. Although we think she is pretty with or without her hair tied up, (and try to tell her this) but she is also STRONG and SMART and HELPFUL. I want her to hear other "good" labels, life is not just about how she looks x