This blog: Building Relationships: Judgement and Labeling in Parenting talks about how we lose connection with our older children when we are consistently labeling their actions as good or bad.
“Good Job,” I tell my toddler as she attempts to put away her dinner plate by herself.
“No, honey. We do not scream inside the house. That’s bad,” I tell my 5 year old as he runs around the living room.
As parents, we are consistently labeling our children’s actions as either good or bad from the time they are born. In the young years, this labeling serves the purpose of teaching our children right from wrong, and it also expresses our behavioral expectations for them. However, as our children get older- we must move away from this kind of labeling.
Do you label your child’s actions, interests, or even choices as good or bad? You may be thinking, “Of course not Kristina,” but I am going to challenge that thought because I think you do! We all do it! We vomit our judgment and opinions all over our kids all the time! Has your teenager ever walked out of their room with a less-than-desirable outfit or your son blast music from their headphones that you simply don’t like? Who are we to judge and make labels on other people? Perhaps you label your child’s decisions as either the right choice or bad choice because you feel you know better? For me, I pass judgment on my children because I am trying to save them from making mistakes. I say things like, “I can’t believe you chose not to wear a jacket today! It’s freezing outside. That was a bad choice.” See! I passed judgment that the decision they made was bad when I was just frustrated with them that they were needlessly going through pain or struggle (in this case, they were cold.) However, my caring is being perceived by my child as judgmental. I accused them of being wrong and having to change! Adolescents are already the most insecure creators on the planet. When someone who is supposed to love them unconditionally criticizes them, it is a big blow to their mental health. If parents make these judgments and labels often, then the teenagers begin to pull away and the rift between parent and child begins.
What is the antidote? It starts with us, the parents. As with most things, you must first be aware before you can change it, so this week I challenge you to start becoming aware.
Building Relationships Challenge 1: Catch yourself labeling events, actions, and choices as good or bad. When you mark your child’s choices, you are also inadvertently telling them that THEY are wrong, and you are the authority. News flash: Teenagers hate this! Teens will rebel against authority if the message doesn’t fit their logic. The more you tighten your grip and try to assert your authority, the more your child will rebel. What worked for you when your child was a toddler, will not always work for you now that they are older, trying to claim their own opinions and identity.
Building Relationships Challenge 2: Teenagers need boundaries, but they also need choices. Set your non-negotiable boundaries and then discuss with your teenager what you can be flexible with. You need to give them choices within your boundaries so that they can feel in control too.
Building Relationships Challenge 3: Allow them to make mistakes. Let your child ride out the consequences of the choice they make. It is the best way for them to learn, and you shouldn’t protect them from their choices unless it is going to cause them bodily harm.
Building Relationships Challenge 4: Listen more and talk less. Don’t express every thought that comes to your mind. This is where a lot of the labeling and judgments reside. Practice WATCHING your thoughts instead of speaking them aloud.
Building Relationships Challenge 5: Be mindful of your thoughts. Are you trying to manipulate your child into making the “right” choice OR are you protecting them from making a “wrong” choice? Why? What are the consequences of that “wrong” choice? Can you make their “wrong” choice a learning experience if you let them be themselves?
To help you self-reflect, I have created a FREE resource document to download. Discover your habits and parenting practices that you didn’t even know were there! With awareness, we can limit our judgmental actions and move toward a better relationship with our children!
Also, go to this direct link to watch last week’s video about Expectations Hurt Your Relationship With Your Child.