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When Positive Labels Help or Hurt Children 

smiling lady holding out a sticker award that reads I use my Energy to do Amazing Work by Speak Life Badges.  She is sharing when positive labels help and hurt children, positive parenting tips, parent coaching, sticker awards, teachers

Parents and Teachers, when are your positive labels helping and hurting children? Your words matter and stay with them into adulthood.

ANYTIME YOU CAN SPEAK LIFE TO CHILDREN, DO IT!

Positive labels are words that encourage and build children up such as: special, important, teachable, eager to learn, works with excellence, uses their energy to do amazing work, and stays faithful to the task.

Your children love it when you acknowledge in them this kind of character growth and maturity.  They are worth celebrating.  Who doesn’t want to hear nice things said about them?

It means a lot to them if you acknowledge when they are diligent, kind, puts others first, and overcome a challenge or a loss. When you notice that they are brave, committed, or trustworthy, say so. 

Your children want to hear sincere appreciation, encouragement, and specific praise because it speaks to who they are and who they can grow to become.  We all agree on that.

CAN POSITIVE LABELS LIMIT YOUR CHILD?

Maybe someone would argue that if a child is labeled the “responsible” one, they might feel that they can’t take risks, or can’t act goofy, or can’t take a break from watching over their younger siblings because they have to be the “responsible one”? Tell me in the comments if you can relate to the “responsible” label.

Have a conversation with your child whom you are labeling as the “responsible one.”  Say, “I admire how responsible you are with keeping an eye on your siblings.  It is such a blessing to me because I don’t worry when they are in your care.   But I want to make sure that you don’t feel as though you must always watch over them.  You are free to have fun, be a little goofy, and hang out with your friends.  Do you feel like the responsibility of watching over your siblings often falls on your shoulders?” Then pause, smile, and listen to what they have to say.

What if a child is labeled as the “creative” one?  Does that mean she cannot also be “scientific” or athletic and explore those interests?  Again, initiate conversation with your children so that they feel free to say, “I’d like to explore science.  Would you help me do some science experiments?”  Or ask them, “What do you think about doing some science experiments with me?”  Invite them to try something new with you.

If a child is labeled as “sensitive,” is that good or bad?  Being sensitive could mean feeling hurt often by others or being keenly aware of the needs and feelings of others and reaching out to meet those needs.

Could we be limiting our children with positive labels such as these?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

STOP THE GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL – GOOD BOY, BAD BOY LABELS

What if you always called your child “good girl” but then one day she cuts her little sister’s hair?  Not just a little snip with the scissors but a whole big chunk. In your surprise, you say, “Bad girl!”  Now all of those times she did good and didn’t cause trouble, means little because now she is bad.  And she will remember the “bad girl!” more than the positive because it creates an emotional memory marker in her brain.

Andrew and I decided to not use the “good girl, bad girl, good boy, bad boy” labels in our home; however, even my children have told me that they remember when I’ve shouted in frustration or annoyance. Even my surprise “What are you doing? What were you thinking?” hurt them. They took on the feeling of “bad girl, bad boy” because they messed up and didn’t do good.  Mommy is upset!  Those negative feelings are remembered sometimes more than the positive times of encouragement!

That goes back to how negative labels hurt, and how our negative, critical, shaming responses hurt.  It’s so important that we renew our thoughts, words, and responses as parents. 

POSITIVE LABELS HURT IF USED AS FLATTERY

What positive labels are not is flattery.  Remember that your children want to hear sincere appreciation, encouragement, and specific praise that speaks to who they are and who they can grow to become. 

Say:  “That was a kind thing to do for your sister.  You made her feel special by playing a game with her.”  Then give a Speak Life Badge that says I am Kind.

Say: “Thank you for going the extra mile to collect all of the garbage and take it out to the garage.  That is super helpful.”  Then give them a Speak Life Badge that says I am Thoughtful.

Praise their effort regardless of the outcome.  Say, “I appreciate how diligent you stayed with learning to ride your bike.  I know with diligence like that, you’ll get it in no time and you’ll soon forget that it was even hard.  You’ll say, Mom, it’s so easy to ride a bike.”  Then give them a Speak Life Badge that says I am Diligent.

I encourage you to listen to Episode 7 of the Renewed Mama Podcast where I share about the difference between praise and encouragement.  Listen to that episode, and let me know in the comments how that helps you get clear on the words you are saying to your children.

POSITIVE LABELS HELP WHEN YOU DIFFERENTIATE THEIR IDENTITY AND BEHAVIOR

Make a distinction between who they are (their character and identity) and their behavior. 

Your child’s behavior such as a temper tantrum, a meltdown, a lie, a sibling fight, or stealing from your wallet doesn’t define who your child is.  You should address these misbehaviors so that they learn what is right and wrong, but don’t label them negatively for it.

Examples of Separating Identity from Behavior

When your child chooses to be shy and not join the game or make a new friend, this doesn’t mean their identity is shy. Try saying: “I see you like to observe others.  What do you notice?”  Then just let them talk. Or say, “I see you like to take your time to watch before you jump in to play.  Does that game look fun?” Then give them a Speak Life Badge that says I am Courageous or I am Brave.

Maybe your child is whining a lot.  Before you label them as whiny which is a choice, not an identity, try saying: “I see you are upset. How may I help you?  What can we do together to solve this?”  Then give them a Speak Life Badge that says I am patient.

Instead of negatively labeling your child as “too loud, too much, too busy,” try saying:  “Your energy amazes me.  When I was a kid, I used to dance across the house like a gymnastics class. The couch was my trampoline. I would swing my arms all over the place. You pay attention to what is going on around you, and you know when is the best time to talk. You can tell when is the best time to sit and to listen and when is the best time to let all of that energy out.”  Then give them a Speak Life Badge that says, I use my energy to do amazing things.

Can you see the difference?

Separate their behavior from their identity because behavior is a choice. Even if as a young child they don’t cognitively realize they are making that choice.

CHILDREN NEED YOUR POSITIVE GUIDANCE

Remember that children are learning and need your guidance.  I know it sounds silly, but many times when my children were little, I thought, “Don’t they know this already?  Isn’t it obvious? Why are I still reminding them?”  I had to say to myself, “They are children.  Kimberly, they need you to guide them in this.”  Reminding myself of this helped me to respond with more grace and patience. 

Children don’t know yet how to do it all right. Let’s face it, even as adults we don’t get it all right all the time. 

Also remember that there are many factors contributing to your child’s behavior.  Are they hungry, tired, thirsty, needing your attention, or over stimulated?  Meeting these physical needs first can greatly reduce the outburst and temper tantrums.  Listen to Episode 30:  Strengthening You, Mama:  What Do You and Your Children Need Today? 

POSITIVE LABELS HURT IF USED TO MANIPULATE CHILDREN

We do not use positive labels to manipulate our children or students into an approved role or behavior that makes us look good or gives us the least resistance.    Words are not to manipulate children into conforming.  As parents and teachers, we speak life to help them so that they grow and mature and flourish.

Sarcasm does not work either with your children.  Saying, “I just love it how my children clean up after themselves” does not motivate them to clean up.  Believe me, I’ve tried it.  Sarcasm doesn’t work. 

POSITIVE LABELS SPEAK LIFE

Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21  We speak life!

Sometimes we see things in the lives of our children or students that we don’t like or don’t want there.  Rather than complain, argue, shame, or get frustrated, begin to declare the opposite of what you see over them. 

If you see laziness, declare diligence. When you see a low self-image, declare value and importance. If you see self-hatred, declare beauty and acceptance. When you see a struggle with school work, an “I can’t do this!” declare knowledge and understanding. If your child is unmotivated or distracted, declare focus and an eagerness to learn.


Your words have the power to “call into being what does not yet exist.” Romans 4:17  You may not see it yet in your child, but it can be.  Even before it can be seen, God calls it as though it were already done.  God speaks of non-existent things as if they already existed.  So should you and me.

What truth do you need to speak over your children, your students, and your spouse today?  Believe the best about them even before you see it. 

REPLACE NEGATIVE LABELS WITH SPEAK LIFE BADGES

Where you once used a negative label over your children or students, use Speak Life Badges, sticker award badges as positive labels. I know that you want to celebrate, encourage, and motivate your children and students.  I know that you want to help them break any lies they are believing from negative labels put on them.

Speak Life Badges is a tool that you can use to turn negative labels into positive labels and to speak truth to your children and students.

I know that Speak Life Badges is an actual label.  It’s a sticker award badge that your child or student can wear on their shirt or put on their notebook or in their I Am Loved Journal.  

Each sticker badge has a positive I Am message that speaks to who they are as a person and who they can grow to become.  The scripts are a guide to help you to change your words and to speak in a way that stays patient, positive, and honors your child or student.

DO YOU NEED HELP, MAMA?

Mama, I am here for you if you need help speaking life to your children. Maybe you still can’t motivate or connect with them or help them where they are struggling. Do you need help breaking off the negative labels spoken over you as a child? You know that they are holding you back, but you can’t change the negative, critical tape that is replaying in your mind no matter how hard you try. If that’s you, then go now to renewedmamacoaching.com.  I can help you root out lies from negative labels and help you to replace them with a truth filled identity.

Go to Renewed Mama Coaching and book your first coaching session now.  Sometimes, all you need is someone else to talk to. A small mindset shift can unlock a renewed identity for you.

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