Wednesday 23 May 2012

New labels

A few months ago, I was convinced that Alice was a Spirited Child. It sounds paradoxical since I wrote many time on this blog that she is a very easy kid. Easy she is but she also has a lot of that she uses to climb furniture, empty baskets, chase pets, unplug wires, break stuff, open drawers, move chairs, "ride" and fall from her car seat (I didn't know that a ear could bleed that much!) get the idea.

After one too many "Energizer Bunny" comments, I got a copy of Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic. I completed the little quiz at the beginning of the book and realized that calling Alice a Spirited Child would be a complete insult to any parent who is actually dealing with real "strong-willed" or "difficult" child. She was categorized in the "Low-Key Cool Child" (there is also "Spunky Child" and "Spirited Child"). In other words, Alice is...drum roll please...a normal kid (not that the kids falling in the two other categories are not normal)! Anyway.

There is a small section in the book dedicated to labels and how to redesign them. Totally fascinating.

We all, kids and adults, get labels that are at time positive or negative. Spirited Children are often tagged with numerous miserable labels (stubborn, wild, picky, obnoxious, manipulative, etc.) that, in the long run, can be devastating. Even positive parents can fall in the negative labels trap...especially when the labels are told by teachers, nurses or day care workers.

The author invites the readers to project a new and positive image hoping that it will have an impact on the kids self esteem and behavior. It looks simple but it is not that easy to change labels that stick on people for a long time.

To illustrate my point, I will give you a silly example. My 5 year old cockapoo, Brian, has a couple negative labels but the most frequent are "smelly", "unkept", "scared" and "barky".

Now, instead of apologizing for my "smelly", "unkept", "scared" and "barky" dog, I tell people that Brian is "musky", "naturally wooly", "prudent" and "vocal". Sounds ridiculous but it works...even for a dog. I did it a few times with strangers and this guaranteed Brian a lot of friendly coos. Now think what this little exercise can do to a child and his family.

And for your information, Alice is not intense...she is curious and enthusiastic :)


alyson said...

this is so good, Claudia. I might go get that book too! I think Wolf and Alice are kindred spirits. Wolf climbs, falls, bumps, bruises, screeches {read: screams}, breaks stuff... yea pretty much everything you said. he's often the noisy kid wherever we go. I suppose from now on I could call him "buzzing". ;)

Jennifer said...

Now I want to read the book and see if Gaius really is "spirited" as so many people claim...

taryn said...

Curious and enthusiastic, that's a good way to be!

I totally agree that people are quite generous with the negative labels. I find that as soon as Luke does anything besides sit politely (ie. ALL THE TIME) all sorts of words start getting thrown at him (busy, a handful, stubborn, demanding) but I think he's just learning, and man, it's gotta be tough to be a baby/toddler/kid sometimes.