Freedom!

Celebrating Independence Day this weekend on July 4th, I gazed at the brilliant display of fireworks and pondered what freedom means to us today.

Freedom is all about having the ability to make choices.

Living in the 21st century, most of us, thankfully, do reside in counties that protect our basic freedoms.

Yet, I wondered, how much freedom is truly mine, and how much have I relinquished in order to fit into a specific “role”?

So often, we find ourselves stuck in a rut of repetitive habits, without understanding that we really do have the ability to break through of our invisible chains.

How many of us were labeled as children, and then grew into the roles that were assigned to us?

Don’t we all know someone who was labeled as non-academic in his youth, who went on to graduate college with honors later in life?

Aren’t we all familiar with someone who invested so much in her musical talents that she never explored the other aspects of her multi-facetted personality?

It’s so easy, and it’s so tempting to cast our children into roles.

“He’s the messy one with a great sense of humor.”

“She’s the sensitive one who is always organized.”

“He has terrific athletic abilities, but less-than-stellar social skills.”

I recall that in comparison to my brother, I had very specific labels in my youth. (Way too embarrassing to go into more detail!)

Sometimes freedoms are not taken away with a ball and chain, but with a simple label.

Casting a child into a specific role can create a long-term self-fulfilling prophesy.

Throughout their childhood and teenage years, children do not yet have a firm grasp on reality. Rather, their reality is defined by what their parents present as being the truth.

How often do we hear about the youth who was called a “liar” and then realized that he ought to continue speaking falsely in order to live up to his newfound “role”.

People, like glimmering diamonds, have a multitude of facets.

At this present day, or even within this specific decade, one particular facet may be shining more brightly than the others; yet that does not diminish the existence and potential of many other angles that make up one’s personality.

Let’s try to hold our tongues and avoid stereotyping our children within a specific role. Hard as it may be, let’s allow our children to explore ideas and activities that we may not have thought to be a perfect match. Obviously, we are not referring to actions that are inappropriate, rather to dealings that we would not have thought suited to that particular child.

The child who is disorganized can be given a chance to be in charge of a party. (With the necessary amount of supervision!)

The athletic son ought not be held back from trying his hand in the arts one season.

And the family “brain” may decide to opt out of this year’s honors program in order to pursue other interests.

When we avoid casting children into particular roles, we develop more well-rounded and emotionally healthy children.

Let’s continue to love, encourage, and continue to bring out the endless sparkle in our children.

Like a diamond sparkling in the sunlight, the layers of their personality will develop into a unique blend of talents, personality, and ingredients nowhere else to be found.

Comments

  1. I can totally relate to being lumped into a role. I was always the organized one (being that I had 4 brothers!) and my parents depended on me being organized so much that I did not get to express my creativity until much later in my adult life. For better or worse, that’s how my childhood was, but I’m going to be really careful not to stereotype my daughter, Eva, who is 4.5 and very good at using her imagination!

  2. Thank you for the inspiring thoughts… there is always so much for me to think about on this site!

    Amber, mom to Michael 7, and Rose, 14 months

  3. I too was the older child, responsible for my younger brother and very organized. My love of playing with him gave me the love of becoming a Teacher and Stay At Home Mom! However, I was also labeled as the “non-student” “non-leader”…but I did finish college and did pave my own road of choices. I am ever so conscious not to put the same labels on my daughter and younger son. Although I am sure I will make mistakes too, I will be willing to go to therapy with them and take responsibility.

  4. How very true this is! My sisters and I were definitely labeled and it has taken me many years into my adult life to learn that there are other “hats” that I wear very well! But even though I am aware that these things happened to me as a child, you just opened my eyes to the perspective that I am doing this, although to a lesser degree, to my 2 daughters (ages 11 & 4.) Thank-you for this very timely and accurate posting!
    Beth

  5. Isn’t it great that we can all get some insight from eachother! I love this site for that reason. I learn things from all of you so often too! My daughter is 7 and my son is 2 and I can see so much of myself in my daughter, but I am allowing her the “freedoms” I was not allowed, ie, being messy (to an extent) and being creative and having a voice of her own. She inspires me to no end at her level of compassion and love for all! My son is a force of his own. Not nearly as gentle the soul my little brother was. He is not easily swayed, so my daughter does not “get to” be “boss” like I was at her age! haha!

  6. Julie R. says:

    Thank you again for being a huge source of support for parents. There is always something helpful in your articles and information.

  7. Phyllis Becker says:

    My 10 and 12 year old daughters introduce themselves as ‘she’s the dancer’, I’m the singer’. It jars me everytime as the dancer sings quite well but won’t do so and the singer, who doesn’t sing all that well but takes voice lessons, acts like she has two left feet when dancing. They are equally talented/untalented but seem to like defining themselves which I try not to encourage…Now I don’t know whether I’m handling it right or not…Of course this carris over to other areas, the neat and the scattered, the creative and the follower..Not easy when you realize it impacts the rest of their lives!

  8. Thanks for the insight. I have been sitting here thinking how I may be impacting my 13 year old daughter and 12 year old son, both excellent students, one outgoing and on the go, the son who is a homebody and does not want to venture out. I appreciate both of them but wonder if I am saying things to keep them in these roles. My daughter can’t be busy enough (in very healthy ways, sports, babysitting, camp counselor, etc). My son loves to be at home on his skateboard or on his bike and doesn’t want to go anywhere like the beach, the store, the movies. very interesting and thanks for opening this door of thought about roles.

  9. Chantilly says:

    I learned early in life that Freedom is not Free. Most people stay in bondage because example “being label” and do not know who they really are, nor how to let it go and move on. Therefore they remain bounded to things or people that they may not like to be so they do not experience freedom. It was hard just being label an African American Child to an Alcoholic and to a Single Mother. To be told that you will be just like the rest of the African American Mothers in this world, single, on welfare trying to raise children by yourself with no education. I beg you different was my thought. I knew that this label would not be me by any means necessary, but being the lable still hurt me because I did see a lot of young people allowing themselves to be labeled. I learned and decided early in life to move pass the pain and disappointment and follow God and walk through what God had for me. I was willing to let everything and everybody go and fully committed myself to God in order to be free from any situation that may kept be bounded. FAITH means to never look back, continue to look forward to what God has created for us to be. If it is being a singer be the best singer, dancer be the best dancer, and etc. I want to leave you with this The only one who was sinless put Himself as a slave for us in order or us to be slaves to Him in order to be FREE!

  10. SOMETIMES THE ROLES WE ARE LABELED WITH AREN’T ALL THAT BAD- BUT MAKE IT HARD FOR US TO BE SEEN AS ANYTHING DIFFERENT. I HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR AND WAS LABELED “CLASS CLOWN” IN GRAMMAR SCHOOL. IT CONTINUED INTO HIGH SCHOOL AND INTO ADULTHOOD. I SOON REALIZED THAT I USED HUMOR TO HIDE OTHER FEELINGS OR TO “LAUGH AWAY” UNCOMFORATBLE SITUATIONS. BUT FOR THE MOST PART I LIKE BEING THE GOOFY ONE. THE ONLY TIME IT’S KIND OF A DRAG IS WHEN I AM TRYING TO BE SERIOS AND PEOPLE DON’T TAKE ME SERIOUSLY. I HAVE TRIED NOT TO GIV EMY CHILDREN LABELS AND LET THEM DEVELOP INTO WELL-ROUNDED PEOPLE. I TRY TO TELL THEM HOW SPECIAL EACH ONE IS.
    MOM OF 5- FROM 24 TO 5

  11. Another thought provoking piece, thanks, Ellen! Being a single parent of a teenage boy, I struggle between MY “idea” of what he should be doing and hopes I have for my son and the reality, which is what HE is interested in doing and learning. It’s really hard to kind of sit back and let him go.

    Mother of Bryan, 16 yrs.

  12. A lot of us parents label our kids, weather it’s being sarcastic, curious if they’ll always be like that, or wondering what they might do/like next. It’s all in being interested about our kids when they’re growing up. We all want what is best, some of us just might take it a bit too far. As we always say, where not perfect,we just try to make are kids that way LOL!

    I tend to label my daughter (3yrs) a little regarding her personality “drama queen.” which is fine by me ,a lot of entertainment let me tell you! As long as she’s a nice well rounded person, it’s all good.

  13. Wow, what an eye opener. I can’t wait for my husband to read it as he sometimes makes “labels,” on our sons. He’s the athletic one and he is the “artys,” one. I really don’t like that and let him know that it is not healthy. They did that to me when I was little and it took a lifetime to get over it, but I did.
    Thanks for making me aware and keeping us in track.

  14. What an important insight. Well done, Ellen, for the wonderful work u r doing for parenting! Sometimes we can live with labels without even questioning them until (of we are lucky) we get a wake up call which makes us look at our lives. I hope your email reaches many people to help them do just that, as we need personal insight before we can help our kids in the same way. As one of your readers just commented – we are not perfect, but we want our kids to be! This striving for perfection is the root of many problems. A mantra to direct further thinking on this could be ACCEPTANCE.

  15. leelameher says:

    thank you for taking me back to my childhood i will make it point not to label my children. now that my daghter who is 18 years old is going for her proffesional course in mumbai, india.like to know how i can help her in facing loneliness etc, as she will be living alone for the first time.every suggestion of yours is very valuable to me

  16. Some labels are wonderful for children to ‘become’. I love to call my students “ladies” and “gentlemen” instead of just boys and girls. There is a certain expectation that comes with these labels that allow children the freedom to choose those behaviors. I favor this approach over listing all the things I expect from them over and over and over….How often have you praised your children (whether they deserved it or not 🙂 and they accepted that praise and then “earned” it? The best labels we can give are children are those that help them to make good choices. Talented, creative, thoughtful, compassionate, gentle, loving, persistent, courageous,
    And don’t forget to fill them up with reminders of who they REALLY are: loved, precious, unique, ours!
    I’m sure you could add many to list; I could go on and on. What a great topic!!!