Labelling individuals, particularly children, is damaging.

Once you have been given a particular label, it can be hard to shake that off. It can become a means by which you come to understand your SELF. There can be negative effects from any labelling and it is that idea of YOU ARE that is so fixed in nature. It adds to the very real environmental contexts that underpin how we view ourselves and what we are capable of. Individuals can be led to believe that they are inherently limited by these labels.

I believe we are all guilty in some way of creating labels around children without realising it. It often comes from a well-meaning place of encouragement like a child over-hearing a parent describing them as 'a little bookworm'. They start to paint the picture of themselves in that way and ultimately it is a label that someone else has decided to bestow upon them. By allowing ourselves to say things like this, that are fixed in nature (i.e, that you ARE a certain way and this is unchangable) we are more likely to allow ourselves to label when the effects are more detrimental towards the cultivation of a Growth Mindset. I believe we just need to start NOTICING when we are inadvertently labelling our children - "She's the arty one and my son is the sciency one." What might our words and ultimately our beliefs be doing to effect how our children come to view themselves?

In my teaching role, I have heard Mum's saying to their daughter's, "Don't worry, I was never any good at maths either!" This is quite a hidden way of giving a child the label of, 'You are not a maths person'. That is a label they could carry with them for life which could close a lot of doors. It is also an indication of how the parent feels about maths and almost gives the child permission to give-up when learning is challenging; the child thinks, 'oh, it must be in my genes, I'm just not destined to be a maths person'. Whilst seemingly trying to support the child and make them feel better, they are actually inadvertently driving the child towards a fixed mindset - I am not a maths person and never will be.

The label in the above image is particularly harmful in driving the fixed mindset; another hidden one! If a child earns this label of being brilliant and gifted at something, it can lead to future fixed mindset behaviours because the child will be driven to do anything that might help them to hang on to this label. I have seen this in the classroom - children will lie, copy and cheat just to ensure they keep hold of this label - to lose it would be traumatising. These children are less likely to take on challenges where they make mistakes or even fail. Their efforts become all focused on maintaining their label of brilliance in a certain area.

Labels are highly connected to how we praise our children - another area that needs consideration in how we drive growth as opposed to fixed mindsets.

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