I believe that when we put labels on things it sets them up to appear as though they can only be what we call them.
If you tell me I’m smart I’m going to believe it. If you tell me I’m organized, I’m going to believe it and work harder to be more organized. If you tell me I’m a slow runner I’m going to feel like I can’t run with anyone because I’ll hold them back.
Guess what? When you tell my kid he’s shy, he’s going to believe you! No matter how much praise I give him on the way home or how many times I pray with him in the evening and tell him how brave and courageous he is, he’s going to believe you.
He knows I’m his momma and I’m going to side with him, and cheer him on no matter what.
He knows you aren’t biased. You may just be some random stranger in the grocery store who stops to say “hi” to a cheerful looking kid and make small talk, and when he doesn’t’ respond the way you expected the words “Oh you must be shy” come out of your mouth and into his ears and heart.
It crushes him, and it crushes me even harder.
I know what you said seems innocent, but when this happens I spend weeks trying to convince my child again that he isn’t shy, and that he has every right to be reserved when a stranger talks to him and asks questions that he doesn’t feel comfortable answering.
It ends up being a much bigger deal than it needs to be.
He’s young and he hasn’t yet learned how to respond in every situation. Sometimes he gets overwhelmed and goes silent. Please for the love of God, could you just let him be?
If the label you chose for someone isn’t encouraging and uplifting, pick another one. I’m always telling people to “Find the Joy”. Life gives us a lot of tough to deal with and crappy situations, but we can choose to find the joy in every situation. So when you see a child, find some joy, and compliment them on that.
My son is an amazing brother. He loves wrapping his little sister in a blanket and singing to her at naptime.
He’s proud of his strength and aspires to be helpful like his father. He carries my groceries from the car, letting me know how heavy the bags are and that he can do it anyway.
On a recent trip the two of us took to pick out vegetables he offered to carry the flat of plants for me, and I couldn’t have been more proud. He’s thoughtful. Now to be honest, he isn’t always like this, but I love when he is. I’m choosing to focus on the positive. I assure you the negative will work its way out on its own.
The Momma Bear
PS. I’m sorry for all the times I was that random stranger and not the uplifting Momma Bear in this story. No matter what, we can all start taking steps TODAY to be slightly better at this.