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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Labels

Happy Thursday Everyone!

It may be cold and dreary here in Toronto, but the birds are singing in my world.

Don't worry, I haven't started hearing voices...

Yesterday I completed my required practicum hours for my degree! Even though I still have to submit my Major Case Study, this means I am another step closer to finishing.

I also had a crown put on my cracked tooth this morning - the one that was root canaled back in September. So hopefully, once my gums and inside of my cheek heal from all the poking and proding with sharp instruments, eating will once again be a pain-free, completely pleasurable experience.

I hope NEVER to have to go through the whole root canal thing again so I'm also glad to report that I SOMEHOW seem to be doing better at managing stress lately and have not been clenching and grinding my teeth as much.

This afternoon I see the sports medicine doctor and I am so excited to tell him that I have noticed a big improvement in my tendonitis. I can even sit normally now, without having to contort my body in strange ways, prop myself on the edge of a yoga block or roll up a towel under my butt in order to shift my weight off my left side. Dare I hope that this is really the end of my chronic hamstring pain???

Today I wanted to talk about labels. No, I don't mean brand names like Chanel or Michael Kors. I mean the labels we give ourselves and the ones others give us about who we are and what we can do.

Labels can be very harmful.

As a kid I was labelled as "not athletic" because I didn't excel (and wasn't particularly interested) in competitive sports.

Despite having worked out almost every day of my life for the past 23 years, having worked as a fitness instructor for 19 years, a personal trainer for 8 years, and having obtained a PhD in Exercise Sciences, I still see myself that way.

When other people call me "sporty" I feel like a fraud. I may be "fit" but I still think I'm an uncoordinated, klutz. You will NEVER catch me teaching something like Zumba, I'd make a total fool out of myself!

I see the effects of labeling with my clients too. A beautiful, successful woman agonizes over every word she chooses because her parents told her that her sister was the smart one.

A woman in an emotionally abusive relationship can't help but believe it when her partner tells her she is a worthless whore.

A combat veteran believes he is worthless because he was not able to save MORE lives.

If you are a parent, you know how easy it is to start labelling your kids. I am guilty of this, and I know I'm not alone. When I get together with my mom-friends, we almost always spend time talking about how Child A is the _________ one, and Child B is the _________ one.

In my case:
Big A is the needy one, Little A is the independent one.
Big A is the junk-food addict and Little A is the t.v. addict.
Big A is the organized one and Little A is the messy one.
Big A is the cautious one and Little A is the mischievous one.

But as my new parenting bible: How to talk So Kids Will Listen, and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk, points out, when you label children you encourage them to play roles. In other words, you may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In order to free children from playing the roles we unintentionally assign them (or they have assigned themselves), they recommend:

1. Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of him or herself.
2. Put children in situations where they can see themselves differently.
3. Let children overhear you say something positive about them.
4. Model the behaviour you'd like to see.
5. Remind your child of their successes and special moments.
6. When your child acts according to the old/undesired label, state your feelings and/or expectations.

I have to admit that on Halloween night, both girls bucked their labels with regards to junk food. Big A ate a few pieces of candy after returning from trick-or-treating. Little A, however, insisted on breaking into the candy as soon as she got her first piece and then didn't stop. After she and I returned home and Adam took Big A out for her turn, Little A sat and devoured her pile of treats. Turns out she does have a weakness for one particular type of sweet: CHOCOLATE. She rejected the candy and chips and just sat and unwrapped one chocolate after another until we had to take it away from her, afraid that she'd puke.

By the next morning Little A had forgotten all about the Halloween candy. Big A ate some for breakfast and more before dinner, and more after dinner. Adam and I grew concerned. All the folks who recommend allowing kids full access to their treats for a few days after Halloween claim they will eat far less than you think. But then Big A surpised us. Wednesday she woke up and didn't mention the candy. She didn't mention it after school either. She didn't mention it after dinner. And this morning? Not a word about the candy. Maybe we are making too big a deal out of her affection for confections? This is certainly a situation where I can implement many of the suggestions given above and see if this helps Big A to stop playing the role of "junk-food addict" in our home.

Were you labelled as a kid? If so, what effect has this had on you?

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