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Labelling is Limiting, Love is not

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 20, 2021 02:10

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People tend to label people, put them into categories, limit them in order to try to understand them. But humans do not fit into boxes while they are alive. Children are meant to grow, and labelling them does not help.

In a recent family discussion someone produced a list of do's and don'ts for parents to keep in mind when bringing up children. A close acquaintance of ours, a  single mother, had a long struggle with her daughter's mental health. Depression, lack of self-esteem, lack of motivation had been the bane of their lives since the girl had turned fifteen. Recently the mother told us how the child had blossomed, had found a job and was happy. I remarked, reading the girl's social media page, how good it was that she and her girlfriend cherished each other. The mother, aware of the conservative background of both of us, asked: "How do you know ... " It was clear that the girl had feared that her society would disapprove of her love.

An American socialite recently recounted how she had been subjected to brutal treatment, with her parents' consent, when a young adult, in order to try to change her behavior. According to media reports many other young people had suffered, and are suffering similar treatment. Does traumatizing young people prepare them for a productive, happy life? 

Parents often despair at rebellious children, youngsters making apparent wrong choices, following lifestyles we might disapprove of. This is not wrong, but we should also know that we do not have all the knowledge. In one of the most viewed TED talks on education British Educator, Sir Ken Robinson, tells how schools kill creativity by trying to put students in boxes. Of how a girl was labelled 'disruptive' until a real educator said: 'This child is not a problem, she is a dancer.' And this allowed her to become a leading dancer, creator, bringer of joy to many people. 

Sir Ken Robinson. Photo S. ter Burg, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Robinson, in his talk, makes a further important point: We hardly know what the world is going to look like five years from now. How can we make decisions for people who will build their careers over the next two and three decades? Perhaps the world does need computer games designers? Or dancers?

In understanding, and 'fixing' people, we all too often label them, limit them and then expect them to conform to the label, not realizing that they grow, change, develop. At a family meeting a mother lamented at her three year old having autism problems, and being introverted. She told everyone at length how she was trying to address the problem with special programs, therapy and lesson plans. At which a wise five year old remarked: "She's just a little shy, but we can go and play with my dolls."

Labels limit. Labels of sexuality, personality, race, nationality limit people in being what the worlds needs them to be. 

What was missing from the list of do's and don'ts for parents was love and acceptance. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 20, 2021 02:10

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Source: Vox - All

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