The Dangers of Labeling a Child

The dangers of labeling a child are two-fold: a negative label placed on a child can potentially doom him/her to failure because of the stigma; a good label put on a youngster places undue pressure on that child to forever live up to a golden image, or rebel against it. At times labeling a child becomes a necessary evil because the world would be one big dysfunctional family if labels were not placed on people or things. That is how the human brain operates. One labels in order to process what one learns, organizing and storing bits of information into the brain and memory cells for future reference, just as a computer puts names on files and stores it into their memory banks.

When a label is placed upon an illness or disease, it makes it easier for both doctor and patient to understand the disease, and go forth in finding a cure or solution for the disease. However, when adults label a child, it is difficult for a him/her to shake it, as children are overly sensitive and vulnerable about what is said about them, taking everything to heart. A label never leaves a child; it sticks like crazy glue.

Schools are phenomenal for putting labels on students. Psychologists put labels on children/patients so they can deal with the actions of their behavior,  thereby making it easier to prescribe medication. Oftentimes, the child has been incorrectly labeled and the cure becomes the problem, as in the case of many diagnosed ADD children; Ritalin is prescribed and becomes a controlling factor for the child, as justification for a misplaced label.

Labeling is also a strategy of a silent social pecking order. Labeling children into categories of “gifted, advanced, slow-learner,etc.”, limit their capabilities and influence teachers on how they should be teaching, assessing, and evaluating these children. East Indian women used to wear dots on their foreheads to indicate which caste they come from, be it higher or lower caste. It’s like wearing a sign which says ” I am not worthy”, for everyone to see. Colors designate their humble background or lofty positions in life. Nowadays, East Indian women wear colored dots on their foreheads for cosmetic reasons, parties, or other ceremonial rites.

Asian people rarely discipline their children, so often use name-calling or labeling as a method of control, making a child feel badly about himself or herself for errant behavior. This strategy, however, tends to backfire, and a child grows up feeling guilty or badly about everything, along with having low self-esteem because he/she was not deemed a perfect child.

Children put labels on other children because it is a bullying tactic. Name-calling gives power over another child whom one deems as unworthy. Oftentimes it is the bully who feels his lowly self-worth. By labeling another peer, he is venting his anger and frustrations at other children by calling them nerds, dweebs, fatso, or jerks. Other times, calling other children names comes about as a result of sheer jealousy. They have what the bully doesn’t have. When adults/parents bully kids, they are practicing verbal and emotional abuse.

Inadvertently, parents label their offspring as the good one, the smart one, the good-looking one, the one with personality. It’s human nature. Ironically, some of these labels have actually helped some people to excel, in spite of negative attitudes. In a survey which involved dozens of small school children, they were asked ” Which would you rather have, brains or beauty?”.  In every case, brains was the definitive answer.

There are many dangers of labeling a child. By being aware of negative implications of labeling, perhaps society can go towards a better approach in dealing with children, both at home and in educational settings.