First thing first.
Labels and tags are perfect for books and things. They catch your eye, get you curious, help you click on a link, open a website. Labels and tags are especially great when shopping on a budget and can even save you time. They make you turn around and take a look. And the item is clearly in your budget or not. Take it or move on to the next label that makes you turn around and gets you to stop. That’s it.
LABELS ARE NOT FOR PEOPLE. People are people. They do not come in specific sizes and shapes and do not fulfil fixed expectations. They cannot be machine-washed and we DO NOT put them up for sale either.
When we tag children with a learning curve different from the rest, or who look different from our expectation, or those who simply do not fit into our definition of how a kid should be, we end up labelling them for the rest of the community too.
Arrey send that hyper kid to the staffroom. You know that boy who never does his work, he is driving me mad. Be careful…this one is an explosive child.
He is a troublemaker. No one talk to him. Forget it man, he is a slow learner.
These aren’t all, there is the special needs child, the biter, the fussy eater, the fat one, the skinny one, the dark one, the lazy one, the girl who ran away, the boy who never talks, the shy guy, the madrasi, the bangali babu…
Statement and tags, which open them up for ridicule and put them on a journey to self doubt and angst. We box them into categories and stack them into levels in which they will be treated, ignored or punished.
And if you are a parent to these guys, you are labeled sensitive fools who fuss about everything. So what if the teacher told the entire class not to talk to them because they could not complete their work. So what if your kid is being excluded, made fun of, ignored and lonely. You are told that these are all normal things that kids have to go through and your kid just needs to toughen up and you must ignore his or her whining.
So in the process of toughening ups your kids for the future, you allow another human being to define who your child is and can be through their narrow-minded lenses. And you have told your child that they deserve these labels!
Incase you are wondering, here’s why labeling people does not work:
- People Change: When you box them, you tell them they are a certain way and that cannot change. But we know better. The average kid can become the topper and the topper can fail due to stress and unfortunate situations. Telling a child he has a great IQ doesn’t help him. Telling a child he cannot do something cannot help either. Tell them how to work around issues and problems. Tell them how to get better.
- Circumstances Change: So much of our behavior, our attitude and our interest is time bound. It is influenced by the situations around us, by the people we interact with, our circumstances at home. If we are angry now, we won’t necessarily be as angry a year later. We may hate maths today, but the right teacher could change the way we look at a subject or an idea. Labels don’t cater to that possibility.
- People are more than one thing: You are never just great at numbers. You could possibly be great at drawing too and sports too. How can we be defined based on one specific attribute when we are so much more?
- Labels are divisive and derogatory: How does me being a madrasi or a christian or a muslim or a vegetarian contribute to the conversation, unless you are deciding the menu for your party or doing an analysis based on country, culture, race etc? Most tags bring no value addition to the table except reflect our small mindedness. It is best avoided.
There are those in school who get lucky and escape the tagging have names and faces and are high above the stack which means they get selected for events, get appreciated for small things, ignored for errors and of course, have a social circle.
This will help them grow into better fulfilled human beings and they will continue to do well, because they are the average kid who is getting an opportunity to make mistakes, learn from their mistakes and getting value added from the friends and teachers they interact with.
But the tagged guys, life is going to be miserable for them no matter what they do or don’t do.
If they respond to a bully on getting labeled, they become troublemakers.
If they ignore it, they are defined as cold and uncaring.
And slowly, they lose opportunities to participate, be included in activities, have no friends and live under the constant critical eye of classmates and friends.
Its a vicious cycle. Only your label took away every possible opportunity where the child could have turned around and found their place.