Wednesday, July 1, 2009


What is a label? One of Webster’s definitions is a descriptive or identifying word or phrase.

Labels are great for identifying things. We can say that an apple is red or grapes are green…but what do labels do when we use them on people?

A dear Twitter friend, Kathy Ireland (@kathyireland), tweeted about labels on Saturday after a discussion on what it means to be a Christian. She wrote that people like to use labels because they divide and dismiss…that we are one race and that is human. Labels can be used to dehumanize people and that all horrible dictators of the world did just that. It is easier to demean someone when you can label them.

I believe that she is right in many ways, especially in discussing race and religion. I have thought about this a lot after her discussion. In adoption and parenting, I see labels used a lot. I will hear…is that your “adopted” child? He is so smart, she is so musically talented, she is so impulsive, he is so tall, she is so dark, he is so kind, her feet are so small…just to name a few.

Why do we feel the need to use labels? I hear parents, myself included, doing this. How are these labels good and bad for our children to hear? Do we put someone into a box or separate children when we do this or are can it be positive for their self-esteem? Does hearing these labels set limitations on who our children can be and what they might be able to do…like a self-fulfilling prophesy? How do you use labels? Should they just be for objects and not for humans? Tell us your thoughts.

Karen Maunu

1 comment:

  1. I feel labels are so limiting. I recently read something on this that suggested 'you praise the process, not the outcome'. For example, if you child shows you a painting they did, instead of saying, 'you are such a wonderful artist' you could say, 'I love the colors you chose and the way you used them.'