Are you a parent who is passionate about learning? Do you want your children to enjoy school and find success IN and OUT of the classroom?
Then welcome to Learn Their Way!
In this week’s episode, we’ll discuss why we need to use caution with labels.
As adults, it’s really easy for us to put labels on kids. Shy, wild, reserved, outgoing. Smart, stubborn, dawdler, defiant.
It’s normal that we have ideas about who our kids are and who they’re going to grow up to be. But we need to step back, and let our kids decide that for themselves. They will tell us who they are.
In this episode of Learn Their Way, we’ll talk about why we need to be careful putting labels on our kids — even positive ones — and why we all need to take a break and rest every once in a while.
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EPISODE 7 TRANSCRIPT:
Welcome to the Learn Their Way podcast, where we teach strategies designed to help students understand how they learn best and find success in and out of the classroom.
I’m your host, Melissa Droegemueller, and in this episode, we’ll discuss why we need to be careful putting labels on our kids.
Welcome back to episode 7, Use Labels with Caution.
We’re halfway through the first season here on the Learn Their Way podcast, and I’d like to recap a few of the main ideas we’ve talked about.
First, learning is a journey. And all of our journeys are going to look different. There is no one “right” way to learn, so we should strive to understand how our kids learn best.
While teachers have an important role in the education of our children, we — the parents — are the true experts when it comes to our kids. We have the honor of inspiring, empowering, and encouraging them to use their unique gifts to make a positive impact on the world.
In episodes 3 and 4, we discussed learning styles — the myths surrounding them, and how we can use different learning strategies to help our children be successful in and out of the classroom.
We also talked about how learning styles can impact our relationships and communication. Meeting our children where they are and helping them develop into their next stage of life is a special gift, which is why it’s so important that we learn all we can about healthy child development.
In episodes 5 and 6, I shared tips for strengthening attention spans and falling in love with learning. The expectations adults have for our kids aren’t always age-appropriate, and we need to learn how to advocate for our children, while helping them reach their developmental milestones at the pace that’s right for them.
I’ve been working in the education field for a little more than 20 years now and specifically with parents for the last decade. In our Rolling Prairie Readers community discussions, I like to look at the spaces where teaching and parenting overlap, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
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My working title for this episode was, “I am NOT shy.”
When I was a young child, I was told — frequently — by the adults in my life that I was shy. It was repeated so often that I began to internalize it and claim it as part of my personality.
I think I was in college when I began to question the idea. Yes, I’m an introvert. Sure, I’m quiet in social situations because I’d rather observe what’s going on than jump into the spotlight. But I have no problems meeting new people, participating in conversations, or speaking in front of crowds. I am NOT shy.
How many opportunities did I miss out on as a child because I believed a label someone else put on me?
As adults, it’s really easy for us to put labels on kids.
Shy, wild, reserved, outgoing.
Smart, stubborn, dawdler, defiant.
I’ve mentioned before that I love personality tests. It’s empowering to discover the parts of me that are similar to other people — to name things we have in common. It helps me build community and feel less alone.
But I have to be careful when I use that knowledge to make assumptions about other people, especially my children. Because even if we have something in common, it might not manifest itself the same way.
My two kids fall on opposite sides of the introvert/extrovert scale. It’s been crystal clear to me since they were little, when I first read Quiet by Susan Cain. After we spend time with people, my introverted child and I are both ready for a nap, while the extrovert is filled with energy. But when we are WITH people, it’s the introverted child who is more talkative and the extroverted one who seems to be soaking it all in.
Even with positive labels, we need to use caution.
One of our kids is extremely math-minded. Certain concepts come naturally to her, and her mental math skills outpace all the rest of us. When she was younger, I would call her a “math genius” whenever she did something particularly amazing
After a while, she began to see it as a burden. Mistakes made in lessons led to tears. Anything less than a 100% on a test was heartbreaking for her.
No matter how often I reinforced that we do NOT expect perfection from either of our children, she was carrying it around anyway.
If I could only go back in time, I’d tell myself to cool it with the “math genius” thing.
<< musical interlude >>
I think it’s normal that we have ideas about who our kids are and who they’re going to grow up to be. But I think we also need to step back, and let our kids decide that for themselves. They will tell us who they are. They will choose the labels they want to use: athletic, funny, creative.
We need to understand that our kids are going to grow and change. Some labels will stick around for a short time, and others will last a lifetime.
When I was a little girl, Mary Lou Retton won the Olympic gold medal for gymnastics. I was obsessed. I thought I too would grow up to be a gymnast, wearing a leotard and legwarmers around the house constantly. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
My kids won’t be Olympic gymnasts, either. Despite the lessons and cute outfits, it’s not who they are meant to be.
We have the opportunity to open doors for our kids — as many as possible, I think.
As a child, I was saddled with the label “gifted.” I did really well in 5th grade because we had just moved from another state, and I had already learned some of the lessons at my old school. In sixth grade, I was moved up to the “gifted and talented” classes for math and English, and boy, did I struggle.
In fact, looking back on my years in middle school and high school, nearly every class was a struggle. I went to a large school with lots of smart kids, many who were actually gifted. It was no fun being the slowest kid in the class, the one who had to work twice as hard to keep my grades at the standard that was expected for me. No fun at all.
I remember sitting at my graduation ceremony, looking at all of the kids who had higher GPAs than me. All my hard work had gotten me was four years of anxiety and a $1,000 scholarship to our local state university, while they were headed off to do “great things.”
In contrast, my husband went to high school two years ahead of me and a thousand miles away. He was a modern-day renaissance man, participating in multiple sports, band, vocal music, and theater. He pulled in solid grades, had an after-school job (and a girlfriend).
He also went to a four-year state school, but he had a lot more fun getting there.
Both of our childhood experiences have led us to have very different expectations for our kids. I want them to enjoy school because of the intrinsic rewards of learning. It honestly doesn’t matter to me if they choose a two-year associate’s degree or a post-graduate program. Mental health and emotional intelligence are more important to me than the honor roll.
As a mom living in the year 2021, it’s really tempting to get caught up in hustle culture. My own struggles with perfectionism can tip over into workaholism easily, leading to mental health struggles, like panic attacks or bouts of depression.
I want my own kids to know that their self-worth is not tied to their productivity.
It’s why we take a week-long break from school every six weeks. We sleep in, work on fun projects, read lots of books, and let our brains rest. You can see we are still learning, just taking a break from any pressure that may have built up over the six-week term. (I wish this had been an option when I was in school.)
All right parents, it’s time for homework.
If you have a few minutes this week,
I would love for you to pull out a piece of paper or journal, and reflect on these questions:
- Were you given labels as a child that you either outgrew or were simply wrong?
- Do you or your kids struggle with perfectionism?
- Have your childhood experiences affected how you view your child’s education?
You can head to rollingprairiereaders.com/episode7 to read a full transcript of today’s episode, download a copy of these questions, and see our favorite resources related to today’s topic.
Thank you for listening to this week’s episode, and thank you for supporting Learn Their Way!
Be sure to tune in next time as we talk about how personality styles impact learning. See you then!