Monday, April 1, 2013

Labeling kids: The mouth speaks what the heart is full of

Most every mom I know has had a moment or two (or many more in my case!) when they weren't proud of how they reacted to something their child did. Most likely it was on a day the mom was sick, tired, stressed, on deadline at work, something that stretched their patience to the very end.

Recently I referred to my very spirited, strong-willed boy as "challenging." I've also called him frustrating or stubborn. But then I realized something. He's not the one who is "challenged." I am.

He is just himself. He is a very young person with little life experience to understand the overwhelming feelings he gets. He needs someone to teach him, guide him, show him how to handle his emotions, control his impulses and behaviors, and make good choices. He is a child.

I'm the one who allows myself to be "challenged" or "frustrated." I know who he is and what it takes to teach him. So I should learn myself how to stay calm and in control. I need to model it for him. How can I teach him to stay calm if I allow his choices to fluster me and lose my temper?

I tell him every day that no one makes him do something. He recently put pebbles on a girl's head at after-school care because he was mad at her. He said it was her fault. I said, did she take your hand, scoop up the rocks and put them on her own head? To which he laughed, "No!" Okay, I said, then it wasn't her fault. So then how can I blame him for my own over-reactions or outbursts?

I have decided to no longer use labels like "challenging" for him. He's a great kid with some things to learn. Maybe more to learn than other kids. And maybe it will take a lot longer and be a lot more involved. But that's okay. That's who he is. A great kid with some issues. If I label him, it's as if I am putting the blame for my frustrations on him. He didn't do it. I let it affect me that way.

One rule I made for myself early on in his life is that I would never, ever ever call him a "bad boy." And, thanks to God's grace, I never have. In fact, I have told him so many times over the years that he is never a bad boy, he just sometimes makes bad choices that if anyone says anything remotely like he is being a bad boy, he will immediately say, "My mommy says I am not a bad boy, I just sometimes make bad choices." I think this helps keep his self esteem in tact when adults in other situations get frustrated with him. I hope that one thing will somehow make up for the times I do give in to frustration and lose it.

In the meantime, I will work on the words I say. I read in the Bible once that "The mouth speaks what the heart is full of." If that's so, I should only speak kind words about my boy. If my heart is full of love for him and an image of him that is good, I will see his problems in an entirely different light. Not as something to complain about or be angry at or fear. But as his unique personality, entrusted to me to mold and shape and polish. A big responsibility, but one I am absolutely blessed to have.


  1. Very well said,Steph! You are an amazing person and mom.

    1. Goodness gracious, thank you for your kind words. I read somewhere a long time ago when my son was young that if you are worried you aren't doing well enough, it probably means you're doing better than you think :) Just by that mere fact of concern, you end up doing better. I hope so anyway!

  2. This is a good reminder to me, too. I have recently become aware of how I label or cast blame, which I then end up using as an excuse. I tend to point to my daughter's dad as the cause of many of her behaviour issues, and that is counterproductive...we all have our own challenges, and while there may be some factors outside of our control, we still need to accept it for what it is and do our level best, regardless of cause. These were some wise words!

  3. "The mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Excellent reminder, Steph! You are a fantastic mom and I love your perspective. :)

    1. Thanks, Carrie. I have to remind myself every day. For me, it's almost like weight loss, you achieve it through every food choice you make. With parenting, I have to remind myself to stay calm and level every day!


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