Handling Negative Labels Against Children
Hi, Your article on the “high needs baby” applied to my child. However, he is now 4 and is, what I referred to as, a “spirited child”. He is the graduated high needs baby. I think this term will help other parents whose babies were “high needs” and are now preschool and kindergarten aged.
“High Needs Baby” Who Graduates to a “Spirited Child”
I love your use of the term “spirited child”, and that you see your high-need baby has grown into this. Since we parents are prone to “labeling” our infants and children, the term “high need” is much better than “fussy baby.” This reframing in more positive terms will be very important as he enters school. This is so common that in counseling parents in my husband’s (Dr. Bill) medical practice we have a “pre-school” talk with parents of high-need babies to prepare them to hear unfair and unwise labels that may be applied to their child.
Be Aware of Instant Labeling
Intellectually intelligent and emotionally sensitive children are a target for these labels, and it’s usually some “D,” such as ADD or ADHD. That’s because many schools simply want easy kids that think inside the box, behave inside a box, and are easy to manage. Yet, many brilliant children think outside the box. Given intuitive parenting and the right school match grow up to, shall we say, build better boxes, in that they do something special to make this world a better place to live.
Reframe Negative Comments
This is true of many brilliant musicians, actors, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. So, if during a parent-teacher meeting the teacher insensitively says, “He sure is disruptive,” quickly reframe with: “Yes, he has an interesting personality.” If she says, “He’s so sensitive,” reframe with: “Yes, he is very caring and compassionate.” Pre-school age children are very sensitive to labels, so an important part of your parenting is to be sure that these “labels” are smart and uplifting. Again, we congratulate you on graduating your high-need baby to a “spirited child.”
Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”