Twins Demonstrate why Labeling your Kids Personality is Wrong.

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As a human, I know we like to categorize things. It’s how our brain works. We give names to everything around us: colors, careers, food products, personality traits or disorders, to name a few – all this to make sense of the world around us. As a graduate in Psychology we were taught not to prematurely label our clients. Firstly labels have a way of “sticking”, and they might also become a self fulfilling prophecy.

But it’s harmful to label your children. I remember as a child my parents labeled me the smart one or the  “A” student. I didn’t want this label because it separated me from my siblings. My siblings who I absolutely adore. But unknowingly this label put some distance between us, and possibly resentment, never mind the pressure on me to perform.

Now that I am a mom, I have to catch myself when I say, “oh he is the mischievous one” or “he is the sensitive one”. I think we all have those qualities within us, but it just depends on the situation and what the situation or environment brings out in us. With twins this has become more obvious.

 I have labeled one of my twins as braver than the other. He will get his haircut first because then the other twin will observe him and see that it’s no big deal and then he will do X, Y or Z.

But just a few days ago, I was very surprised by the turn of events. The “not so brave one” was braver than his brother. We were at the science center and some employee brought around a massive bug – a huge cockroach.

Huge Cockroach!!! Gross!

Well here you see my “not so brave” son looking at it – and then touching it (below)!

Whereas my other son wanted nothing to do with it.

Impressive Mason - I wouldn't even do it!

Labels can also limit your children from achieving their full potential. You might call them sporty but in doing so they might perhaps neglect their studies or vice versa. Back to the bug example above, I was surprised by my son’s bravery – I never saw it coming, but had the opportunity not presented itself, I might have thought he wasn’t capable of touching the bug and I wouldn’t even have put him in that situation.

Also while we were on vacation the twins were exposed to so many new things. The biggest being the beach and the ocean. My twin “the go getter” who runs in to all situations wasn’t so sure about the ocean and the beach – he preferred to be held unless the word “crab” was mentioned and then he wanted to be right in the center of the action! My other son, who normally stands back and observes his brother before doing things, loved, loved the water, the sand and everything about the beach.  You just can’t predict correctly all the time, so labeling your child a certain way might limit them.

What I learnt from this was to keep exposing my kids to different situations, even if I presume to know how they will react, perform or behave, because they may just surprise me. And I am not sure whether it was the situation that was different or the fact that they continue to grow and change, but I don’t want to limit my kids by my presumptions or labeling.

If you say your child is shy/quiet/outgoing/funny, in my opinion you are reinforcing that behavior and they will most likely keep acting that way.

But as I said before labeling is how we make sense of the world – so what is the solution?

In my humble opinion if you have to label make sure it’s a positive label. Also be sure when you label that you are not comparing them to your other children OR making your other children feel limited in some way. Make sure your children know that in any situation, anything is possible as long as they apply themselves, and do their personal best.

About Twin Mom

34 year old, born in a small steel town in South Africa, now living in a large Steel City in the US. Mother of twins and loving every moment.
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24 Responses to Twins Demonstrate why Labeling your Kids Personality is Wrong.

  1. Audra says:

    Words have such power! You are so right! I have a hard time remembering in the moment at times. Since my kids are so close in age (7 mos, 2, 3 1/2), people are always asking me to compare them. Gotta work on that one!

  2. rosey says:

    I don’t like labeling either. Positive or negative it can have unintended consequences. Words are hard to let go of, especially when we’re younger. I like that you wrote about it.

  3. Mommys Juice says:

    Interesting… I didn’t even realized I had labeled my kids until I read this but I totally have. And they do move outside of those labels so often. Thanks for the eye opener.

  4. Sara says:

    These are great points! I try really hard not to put labels on my girls as well. Words can have a lasting effect on a child whether they are positive or negative. I still deal with hurt and insecurities from some of the labels placed on me during my childhood by certain family members and it is the last thing that I want for my kids. Thank you so much for addressing this! =)

  5. Pamela R says:

    -“Labels can also limit your children from achieving their full potential. ” 100%True

  6. nichole says:

    I think this very true, I also believe it can be applied to how we treat kids according to their birth order also. http://www.themomsforum.blogspot.com/ and http://www.themomsgroup.com/

  7. Leigh… well said. The second you think your child as a certain “label”… they surprise each and every time!! Grace, Peace and blessings… Carla

  8. Sista says:

    What a fantastic post, certainly is food for thought!

  9. Alicia H says:

    so true I love this. I know I catch myself doing the same thing at times. I know better but I still do it argh

  10. Excellent lesson here. I totally agree, especially about that comparing. And absolutely if you have to label let it be positive. As for Mason – way to go! This mommy scrolled quickly passed those photos. To get me to stand in your shoes at that moment would have been a brave achievement for me.

  11. kim Hix says:

    My best friends growing up were twins and they were so different, and I have known many twins and the same holds true. It amazes me that twins, and siblings born of the same parents, raised in the same home can be so very different. Your life seems quite fun

  12. Liz says:

    I loved reading this!!!! What a great reminder. It’s amazing how just hearing how someone has labelled you, even if just in the moment, is sometimes enough to make you think you are that trait for the rest of your life!

  13. Mitzi says:

    This is a wonderful reminder of how ‘words’ can shape children and how labels are never as good as they might seem. Wonderful share.

  14. I think words really can shape you like you say. I wonder when that reverse psychology kicks in though?

  15. Thank you so much for the reminder to celebrate God’s unique gifts in each child and not limit them by my perceptions.

  16. Ashleigh says:

    This is so true! I try not to label my twins too much, but you can hardly help yourself. I also feel like it’s easier to do with twins, because you can’t help but compare them. But yet, they continue to surprise me and defy their labels on a daily basis!

  17. Rosey says:

    I’ve already commented but just saw this article again and wanted to note how gorgeous those big flat stones are!!! Perfect for picture taking. Not as perfect as your cute twins…but nice just the same. :)

  18. You know, you are absolutely right! I think labeling is inherent in all parents but it is something we must strive to to stop doing where the child can hear! In my 4 month olds I can see differences and I know they will BE different (they are different sexes afterall). I encourage the differences but I tell them both they will go conquer the world! Your little one that was touching the cockroach might grow up to be scientific and the other one is artistic. It may not have anything to do with bravery. That may explain the touching of the cockroach.

  19. Kristine says:

    Thank you for reminding us. I used to label my son as “inattentive to academics” just because he seemed not to listen every time I teach him how to count and so on. But he makes me so surprised this week when I see him do or mumble the things I taught him weeks ago.

  20. Pingback: Respecting Individuality Among Twin Siblings | One and One Equals Twin Fun

  21. Mollygram says:

    This post is worth a repost. I love it. I especially liked the comment that said not to label within earshot of the kids. Also friends and relatives might hold onto a label longer than the parent. Good to feel the ocean breeze!

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