Thinking out loud: Labels

I remember back in 2nd grade we had a new girl in class. Although she was Egyptian, it was obvious she didn’t live in Egypt for long; her Arabic wasn’t the best. She tried so hard to ‘fit in.’ She dressed exactly like how the other girls were dressing, she invited the class to several play-dates and she showered each one of us with our favorite food during snack-box time. One day, we were asked by our teacher to draw how we were feeling. Everyone went up to present their picture, some drew happy faces, others silly faces but she… what she drew remains a vivid image till today. She drew herself crying, the tears were falling but not in the shape of tear drops, in the shape of small houses and people. At the time, I remember the whole class made fun of her and that’s when she was labeled as ‘the weird girl’ for the rest of the year. It was towards the end of that year when she announced she wasn’t returning for the next academic term that we all discovered that her father is an ambassador and at the young age of only 7 she had already moved to 8 houses in 5 different countries, with each time making absolutely no friends. It was then, that her picture made so much sense.

Behavior is not an action, but a reaction from an inner thought, feeling or experience

When thinking of the behavior of a child, remember, this is a reaction from a thought, feeling or experience they are having. There is a REASON behind every behavior. Sometimes they are going through hard times, experiencing changes or simply having a bad day. Don’t let their behavior define them into a label.

The ‘bully’ in class might be experiencing a family divorce, witnessing fights, physical and verbal abuse or perhaps even neglect.

The ‘class-clown’ might be thinking he is incapable of completing the same activities as the rest of the class and so tries to change the subject in the best way he knows how; to be ‘funny’.

The ‘teacher’s-pet’ might be feeling lonely ever since her family welcomed a new baby sister, attention has shifted away from her and so she might be trying to replace this void with attention from her teacher.

The ‘awkward’ boy of the class is not actually awkward at all, but a very bright child that is swamped with after-school activities leaving him no time to socialize with peers.

I’ll say it again. Behavior is not an action, but a reaction from an inner thought, feeling or experience. Rather than looking at the behavior we should look into the behavior. Why is this child behaving so? What could he be thinking, feeling or experiencing? The more we can change our perspective on child behavior the better we can pass on this way of thinking to our kids and their generation. Let’s end labels.

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