We've all heard it said that it's important not to label our children. “She's the shy one.” “He's the trouble maker.” “If she's this moody now she's going to be big trouble by the time she's a teen.”
As a mom of ten, I learned personally that this type of labeling does not benefit our children. Up until my daughter, Leslie, was four-years-old I thought she was shy. She always hid behind me when we were around new people, and I gave her that label.
Then, I realized, Leslie wasn't shy she just didn't know who to respond to adults who complimented her naturally curly hair or asked her simple questions like, “Did you draw that picture?” Once I took the time with Leslie to role-play these situations, and practice her responses, she was a new child. She was outgoing and personable. Now she's a missionary overseas and interacts with new people all the time. I hate to think what would have happened if I would have kept labeling her shy.
Then again, there ARE some labels we need to place on our children. They need to know about their unique roles and how they belong in God's kingdom. Here are three ways to label our children the right way.
Speak WHO you want your child to be with God's help. “When my first child was going through a difficult time, when she was 3-years-old, I would hug her several times a day and tell her she was my happy girl,” says my friend Robin. “I have also spoken the Word over my children, telling them they are gifted, called, purposed, strong, a leader not a follower, and a weapon in God's hand!” When we speak these words over our children they soon start to believe it, and they can grow into who God made them to be.
Speak WHO they already are to God. “I tell my daughter she God's. I tell her she is loved, wanted, and created with a Kingdom purpose,” said my friend Jessica. “I tell her she is a leader. God gave her the gift of a strong will. She has determination and drive. She is beautiful. She is amazing.” When we share how God sees our child it will grow their faith and confidence in Him.
I often share Psalm 139:13-14 with my children, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Even my adopted children know they were created by God for a purpose. As Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That's an important thing for our children to know!
Speak WHAT God is doing in their lives. When we praise everything our child does they start to believe the world revolves around them. Instead, we need to label where we see God at work. Can we see God's hand using our children, directing them, guiding them?
From a young age my daughter Leslie felt called to be a missionary. Instead of telling her, “I'm so proud of you for making that decision,” I told her, “I can see that God has His hand upon your life. I can't want to see what He has in store for you. God has a heart for people around the world.”
“I have always felt that telling my children I was proud of them was so wrong, since pride is the root of evil,” says my friend Gaye. “What I found was better to tell them is that I was so proud of what God was doing in their lives. That way they learn to trust God and what He is doing in their lives and not themselves. Plus, it takes pressure off them for things they are not able to do.”
Remind your child that all the good within them comes from God-at-work in their lives. Make it clear that as they continue to step out to love and serve others God will be there to help and guide.
Overall, our children need to hear from our mouths who God designed them to be and for what purpose. Sharing how we see God-at-work helps our children see how God has created them, how He is working, and how He will continue to work in the future. These labels will stick for life and guide them into the men and women God designed for them to be.