Are We Labeling Our Kids? - iVillage


I think professionals have been too quick to label, perhaps to explain away problems in the classroom (teachers), or to get insurance reimbursement (psychologists, social workers, and counselors) or to medicate (psychiatrists). Parents have picked up on this trend and sometimes get into the labeling mode.

I suggest we slow the rush to label our children and start to put more emphasis on understanding their behavior by asking lots of questions. For example, start with this dilemma: "My son doesn't listen to his teacher." Then answer the following questions:

• How old is your child?

• Do you understand what is normal behavior for this age group?

• Does your son listen poorly while the teacher is teaching a lesson, or at other times or both?

• Does he listen to you at home?

• Did he listen to the teacher last year? (If yes, is the problem possibly related to the teacher, or class size or something in this year's classroom? If no, when did it begin? What has changed?)

• Is your child upset about anything that has happened in school or in the family?

• Has he had academic problems? Could this be an attempt to cover up such problems?

• Is he very advanced academically? Could he be bored?

• How does he get along with peers? Could he be looking for attention?

I could go on and on with questions. That's what a good psychologist does: plays detective. And that's what I recommend for parents. A diagnosis of any sort should follow our full understanding of a problem. A label is a poor substitute for understanding.


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