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One of the things that we do to help us parent better is to label issues we see in our children.  We may see them being competitive, or lazy or bossy.  When we do this though we limit our ability to find solutions to the problem.  We tend to use the same reactions that have always been used in that particular situation.

Instead we need to define the issue.  When we define something we start to pull it apart, we start to see it from different angles and we start to understand what is really going on.  When we label behaviour we box it up, when we define the behaviour we unwrap it.

For example:  we may consider a child competitive.  We see this affecting family harmony and yet we don’t know where to go.  We get a little sidetracked because we understand competitiveness in sports etc maybe a good thing but we can see it doing damage in family relationships.  When we start to dig deeper and observe what is going on we can find a range of issues that will actually direct us towards some solutions.

  • The child may be selfish – where everything is about them, can’t work in a team, can’t recognise the good things others do, wants to be first, wants to be equal (things need to be fair not equal).
  • The child may be insecure – they may not know or be content with their own strengths and weaknesses, which in turn doesn’t allow them to work with someone else’s strengths or be gracious toward other’s weaknesses.

Another area is the word naughty!  My child is so naughty!  There is really not much to work with there is there – it is a label.  Once we start to observe though the different things this child does or doesn’t do we have something very clear to work with.  My child is not obedient is even a label.  But breaking down the expectation of obedience to mean coming when called, with a happy heart – then I have something to work with.  I can help my child understand that he needs to come, that he needs to have a happy heart etc.  Define it, don’t label it.

I have found the same idea has helped me with Daniel’s learning difficulties.  Giving the label isn’t very helpful if that is as far as you go.  With a label you are likely to give excuses – but when I start to define the outworking of that, what his behaviours look like, then I can find one strategy at a time to help him learn and grow.  So if you have a child with a learning difficulty don’t just label it, define it and move on from there.

It is easy to judge our children with a sweeping statement.  But it doesn’t help anyone.  We get frustrated that our children don’t change and yet we aren’t giving them any help towards change.  We then fall into the trap of ranting and raving at our children, they close off and not only does their behaviour not change, our relationship with them disintegrates.  How much better to break down what we see into manageable bits so that step by step we can walk toward change.  So next time you see something happening in your child that you don’t like – don’t just label it, define it.

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 Every week I'll email an encouragement to stay intentional and relational in all your family life.  But for now, download your set of reminder posters - posters which I've used over the years to remind me to keep my eyes and heart on what is important.

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