Labels Disable

A Great Idea …

“When conflicts arise over your teen’s behavior, don’t use trait labels (lazy, greedy, sloppy, selfish) to talk about it. Talk instead in terms of specific actions, telling your child how what she has done affects you.”  (Psychologist, John Gottman, in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, pp. 211-212)

In Other Words …

When we’re frustrated, we quite naturally hang labels on our children. Those labels don’t motivate them. In fact, they tend to discourage them and make them angry. For example, if our children leave clothes lying around, rather than call them lazy or sloppy, we can make a simple statement: “When I see clothes lying around the living room, I feel frustrated. I feel like throwing them away.”

How This Applies to You …

The next time a conflict arises with your teen, take a moment to conquer your urge to strike out at your child. Take a deep breath. Express your frustration in a way that invites action rather than generates resentment and discouragement.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on parenting, see The Parenting Journey at www.arfamilies.org and if your children are younger than six, check out See the World Through My Eyes.

For more on parenting, we recommend Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Childby John Gottman, or Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott. You might also read free ideas from Between Parent and Teenager at www.betweenparentandchild.com

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Deborah Avila June 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    I think this is applicable to any relationship since we easily are quick to jump to our emotional state in most situations. I’ve learned thru you and many book, that as we label another we are labeling ourselves at the same time by what type of reaction we give. Am I wrong ?
    Have you read “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns?

    Thank you again for everything !

  • Reply Mrs. Lowe June 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I like this. The right words seem to come very slowly when I’m mad about my kids or my husband’s hygiene practice around the house. I believe I told my kids that if they can’t clean up their toys, then the toys will belong to the trash. I like the idea of expressing exactly what we’d do to the mess!

  • Leave a Reply