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Beware of Your Child’s Label


Beware of Your Child’s Label

Labels have meaning.

Labels of the latest fashion are important to both children and adults (e.g., clothes, shoes, and electronics). Adults at times may satisfy the need for high fashion with an occasional knockoff instead of an expensive brand name merchandise. However, some labels have far greater consequence than just being out of step with the latest trend in fashion. These labels can have serious impact on your child’s well-being. An unnecessary psychiatric label can erode your child’s confidence, self-image and under mind his or her ability to succeed.

Psychiatric labels have consequences.

Mental health professionals who work with children routinely have to diagnose (or name) the problem they perceive in children. For example, a child who argues, refuses to follow rules, and gets into fights with others could be diagnosed as defiant. The psychiatric term is Oppositional Defiant Disorder commonly referred to as ODD. Being labeled a “defiant” person creates a negative perception of how teachers and students are likely to perceive your child. In their minds the label is your child, and your child will be judged according to the label rather than who he or she really is. Additionally, children who are labeled often come to believe the label is who they are. Once a label has been assigned children begin to explain poor behavior or underachievement in school as a result of a psychiatric label (example, “I don’t do well in school because I have ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). The label often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Psychiatric labels affect self-image.

While a diagnosis may be warranted in treating severe conditions (such as schizophrenia, major developmental delays, substance abuse), diagnoses are often counterproductive in dealing with common problems. Most experts agree that psychiatric diagnoses are very subjective. For example, a child whose parents are separating may feel angry and as result act out in school. It’s important to remember that children more often than not are reacting to problems created by the adults in their lives. A child who argues and gets into fights may be desperately trying to adjust to a situation at home that they have no power to influence. It’s pointless for children to be labeled for problems they did not cause. In addition, a psychiatric label can have a negative impact on a child’s self-image and create a false image in the mind of others.

Advocate effectively for your child.

Consider the following steps if counseling is necessary for your child. First, inform the counselor you want to be an active part of the solution. Second, let the counselor know because you are the expert of your child’s life you want your perspective to be included in his or her treatment. Third, ask if a diagnosis is necessary. If the answer is yes, say you want to participate in that process by providing information about key events in your child’s life. Fourth, ask the counselor if he or she is willing to use the LEAST negative diagnosis if one is necessary at all?

Collaborate with counselors.

Approach mental health professionals as people who are committed to the well-being of your child but who may need your expert advice about your child’s life. Mental health professionals are dedicated and hardworking people, and most are aware that psychiatric diagnoses are quite often influenced by personal opinion. Let them know that you want to be a part of the solution, and you don’t want your child’s behavior described in a way that creates additional problems by putting a negative label that can have a lasting impact. Most mental health practitioners will welcome your involvement as a concerned parent or guardian. Collaborate with them; be active and respectful. Both you and your child can have valuable experience from counseling.


Why Does My Child Lie?


Why Does My Child Lie?

The lack of honesty between parents and a child can be very stressful. Frustrated parents often ask, “Why does my child lie?” As a parent you’re right to be concerned when your child is not being truthful. However, a better question to consider might be, “what are the things my child is honest about?” There are lots of things that your child is very honest about perhaps even brutally honest. Therefore, you don’t want to characterize your child as a “liar.” Consider your own childhood and the times you told your parents your own version of the truth, plus all the times as an adult that you’re less than truthful. That said, how do you resolve this difficult situation?

First, avoid calling your child a “liar” because he or she may live up (or down) to your description. Withholding the truth happens often; the role of a parent is to help children learn how to communicate truthfully. Young children in particular often lack the skills to consistently communicate truthfully in different social situations.

Second, when a child makes a false statement there is generally something else that they would rather be true. For example, if a child breaks a vase and denies it, the denial is simply a wish to reverse the situation so that the feeling of guilt and potential consequences might be avoided. One way to address a situation like that might be to ask your child, “What do you think should happen if a person breaks a vase and says I’m sorry for breaking the vase?” An open-ended question like this minimizes shame and guilt but provides an opportunity to teach honesty and accepting responsibility.

Third, fear is often a significant factor when children withhold the truth. Fear is a powerful emotion and often interferes with our ability to think clearly. Children can experience fear even more intensely than adults. A child may decide to withhold the truth for fear of disappointing you; he or she may fear that being truthful will result in more trouble. A child might also withhold the truth attempting to protect another person. Lastly, your child may have learned that a mistake is something to hide rather than an opportunity to learn and grow.

Children who feel secure in their relationship with parents (or caregivers) are less fearful and thus more able to consistently communicate honestly. Put differently, children who feel loved unconditionally are more able to be truthful.


I Love You But I’m Not “IN” Love With You


I Love You But I’m Not “IN” Love With You.

If you’re on the receiving end of this statement—I love you but I’m not “IN” love with you—and you feel dazed, you should because you have been hit with the equivalent of a two-by-four dead smack across your head. However, the fact that you’re reading this article is good news because you’re probably no longer seeing stars or lights swirling around inside your head.

Shock and Anger:

If your initial reaction was shock and anger, you’re entitled, but you can’t stay stuck in the rage or disbelief. You also don’t want to get stuck on blaming your partner for being “mean” or “cruel” because if you come across like a victim your partner is likely to interpret your behavior as more justification for the statement even if he or she doesn’t say so.

Course of Action:

You’re probably thinking, “So doc what the hell do I do?” That’s a fair question. A couple of things to consider: First, your partner did not say this purely on impulse. There were signs that you may have missed; this doesn’t mean that the statement is justified, but you have to accept that he or she didn’t get to that point overnight. Second, you want to express your hurt to a trustworthy person who won’t choose sides. You definitely don’t want to share this painful experience with someone who is attracted to you or that you find attractive; that’s adding fuel to the fire.

Questions to Ask:

Once you feel clear headed there are valid questions that you can ask your partner to help you understand the state of the relationship.

  1. You might ask “What was the turning point or key event that made you feel this way?” In other words you want to find out, what was the final straw that broke the camel’s back?
  2. You want to understand what the statement means to your partner. Don’t assume that you know exactly what the statement means to your partner. Ask! What does it mean that “You love me but you’re not IN love with me?”
  3. State, calmly, what the statement means to you personally. If you’re not able to state your point calmly, it’s okay to simply say “I need time to reflect on this.”
  4. You can ask your partner “What does that statement means for the relationship?” Again, you don’t want to assume that you know.
  5. You might also want to ask your partner, “How do you think we both contributed to this?” Finally, you want to ask, “How do we move forward?”


Depending on how well you and your partner address these questions, the two of you might be able to move forward on your own with a clearer direction. If more questions or issues arise, professional intervention might be necessary.