As children and adults of the 21st Century, we pride ourselves on the technological advancement of information and are often overzealous to “diagnose” those we think are less than perfect.
Of course, the labels we place on people or our children start with the best intentions to enable all to seek medical help.
However, they ultimately limit people and put them in boxes, leading them to conclude what they can and cannot do.
Why should we not label children:
• Labels can be inaccurate, mainly when the diagnosis is performed by someone with no skills, qualifications, or expertise.
• It affects and reflects how the child looks at themselves and how others may view and treat them.
• Many children assume that the label given is their identity and are discouraged from believing that circumstances are changeable through practice and hard work. E.g., “You will never learn to read. You are artistic.” etc.
• If a child is often told who and what they are, it is challenging for them to change who they believe to be.
• It can create a sense of learned helplessness as when a child’s self-esteem is very low, not only do others place a lower expectation on them, but the child loses heart and hold back.
• It can hurt and re-enforces the persistence of negative stereotypes.
• It stifles growth and limits potential.
• It is harder to correct behaviours when children see negative feelings and words as a direct slant at them as a person rather than at their actions. You should fix the deed and not label the child as “naughty”, “disobedient”, “hyperactive”, etc.
Parents and teachers are to accept that children and adults are complex and diverse and do not fit into neat categories. Positive reinforcement, however, is an excellent alternative to labelling.