What exactly is meant by the phrase “labeling children”? To label a child is to say that a child that has a history of behavioral issues is “bad.” You can also label a child as “good”, “athletic”, “shy”, etc. Labeling is such a harmful thing when a child is constantly hearing how bad they are, they begin to feel that everything they do is bad and bad is all that they will ever be. On the flip side, in some situations, labeling a child while speaking to another teacher or adult can be helpful in getting that child the help they need. Children are often labeled to help teachers and parents make sense of the child’s behavior. (thebump.com) When teachers and parents label children, they make it difficult to show the child empathy. By labeling a strong willed child as “troublemaker” the child is assigned a personality trait instead of the adult trying to relate to the child’s struggle.
I chose this topic because as a student that is also working in the education system, I see both sides of the topic. As a student, I see how labels limit us and what we feel like we are able to accomplish. As an educator, I see how easy it is to write a student off as “bad,” or “a lost cause” because after so long, it becomes extremely difficult to help these kids see the potential they have.
Teachers are not the only ones causing harm by labeling. Many times children are bullied by their peers by being labeled with terms such as “weird”, and “dumb.” As of 2010, there were approximately 160,000 children that miss school everyday in fear of being bullied (psychologytoday.com). Labeling can very well be a form of bullying. Parents are also guilty of labeling their children. Many times, a parent with multiple children will label one as “the athlete”, another as “the musician”, or “the golden child”. Labels like that may be harmful to the children because the child labeled as “the athlete” may want to try playing an instrument, but there is already a “musician” in the family. Labels in the home can cause fighting and chaos.
Children are more than just a statistic. Many children are already looked at as just another number or statistic (empoweringparents.com). Labeling them makes them think a label or a statistic is all that they will ever become.
The most common phrase heard around schools and at home is “Oh, they are just a bad kid.” It’s not that these kids are “bad”. Not all children have families that can afford to live in a nice house, have new clothes, and all of the latest technology. There are children in local classrooms who do not get to eat three meals a day. Children who have learned not to be afraid of the dark because most of the time, the lights at home will not turn on. There are children in local classrooms who live in homes full of anger, abuse, and chaos. These children do not always have perfect manners. They are not always taught the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. These children come to school and act out seeking the slightest bit of attention, hoping that someone, anyone, will notice them and notice that something is wrong. They act out and are soon wrote off as “bad,” or “a lost cause” and they begin to think that is all they ever will be.
There is a solution to the problem of labeling these children. All they want is to feel the love from a mother or father figure, to feel the slightest bit of peace, but in school and at home, they are told how bad, worthless, and insignificant they are. As they grow older, they believe it, and begin to act out more and more, eventually becoming extremely angry and violent themselves. It is not that the child is bad, they just need someone to be willing to love them and teach them.
Kiersten Edmonds is a senior at Silsbee High School, as well as a high school helper in a local kindergarten class. She is passionate about youth ministry and teaching Sunday School. Kiersten loves to read, write, and travel and hopes to start doing more of it! She will start her first semester at Lamar University to get her bachelors in elementary education this coming fall!