Tuesday, October 19

Beatriz Ayala: “Labels undermine self-esteem and, worst of all, we are ‘forcing’ them to behave the way we label them to agree with us”



Capricious, good, bad, naughty, intelligent, kind, obedient, silly, brave … On many occasions, we use these adjectives to refer to boys and girls, but we are not always aware of all that they entail for them and their personal development . We adults label people almost without realizing it, automatically. However, when it comes to our sons and daughters, we must know that these types of labels pigeonhole them and strongly condition their behaviors.

To convey this idea and make readers aware of the negative consequences of labels, coach Beatriz Ayala has written a beautiful story entitled “This stinks a lot!”. Through some great illustrations created by Bea Sevilla, “This stinks a lot!” introduces us to Arturo, a boy who suffers from label problems at his school. We spoke with its author to learn a little more about this topic.

Beatriz, how would you define the goal of the story? Is it a story about the importance of confidence and self-esteem?

Indeed, this story alerts us to the negative effect of labels. Labels make the child lose confidence in himself and undermine his self-esteem and, worst of all, we are “forcing” him to behave the way we label him to agree with us. When labeling, the child cannot forge a healthy self-concept of himself, with which it may even happen that the child who “assumes” the label even sees his behavior and his way of being modified.

The objective of this story is to bring parents to an awareness, not only of the harm that those innocent labels that we put on our children do, but also to the awareness of the words that come out of our mouth when we speak to our children. kids.

One of Arturo’s teachers tells him: “You will never learn anything, you are always in the clouds”, “You will be a donkey”. How can these negative phrases affect children? Do you think it affects them more when they come from authority figures such as a teacher?

I am convinced that they affect whoever they come from and I am even more convinced that when they come from a figure that represents authority for the child, they do so much more.

When we are young, our parents are the “holders of the truth.” A child does not question what his adult of reference tells him, because, especially at an early age, he recognizes the world through the eyes of his parents and that is where he finds stability, therefore, these labels are printed with more strength.

Could positive labels affect children too?

A resounding yes. Positive labels, curiously, also affect the child. When parents exaggerate to highlight, for example, a quality of the child, the child will act to seek the approval of the adult. In addition, a positive label such as “you are the best” adds a difficult weight to carry, a lot of pressure, reduces tolerance for frustration and, again, causes the child to act only to be the best, leaving aside his tastes and passions, just to get the approval of others. The child goes easy on it because he knows that this way “he will continue to be the best” and will not disappoint those who labeled him that way.

eye! Parents call our children “champions” with the best of intentions, even with the aim of reinforcing their self-esteem, however, the effect that labels are having is not exactly what was expected.

Why do you think many adults continue to categorize children as good and bad? How to banish this thought?

I believe that there are no bad children, there are simply more or less tolerable behaviors.

It is important to remember that we were children, to remember how we felt when we were scolded, annulled or labeled and that that was, perhaps, what led us to be rebellious, not bad. We adults call children bad who do not behave as we expect them to behave and that does not make any sense. A rebellious child is a child with his own criteria and that is a great asset the day he is an adult.

How to banish that thought? I return the question to you, do we want our children to develop their critical thinking and say yes to everything?

Image from Beatriz Ayala’s story ‘This is so bad!’.


His mother’s loving words make Arturo grow a new label, this time positive and that looks like a superhero cape… How can we promote children’s self-esteem through motivation? Why do you think the way we communicate and the words we choose with them are so important?

Words are very powerful, they build or destroy, that is why it is important that we choose them with love.

Putting labels is an automatic process, therefore, it is very easy to put them and a little more difficult to remove them. We must make a true awareness and for this, parents, we can focus on the concrete and specific action that the child performs instead of on the character. Not because something goes wrong today you are clumsy and, not because something goes wonderfully today you are a genius. Let’s focus on what the child does well and give him room to make mistakes.

Do you think we should remind them of their strengths instead of reminding them of their weaknesses?

Yes, we must remind them of their strengths and even enhance them. There is a phrase that I like a lot, by an unknown author, or at least I do not know him, that says: “Let’s put into practice praising our children more for their talents than criticizing or correcting them for their mistakes.”

Could you give us some advice to build children’s confidence on a day-to-day basis?

Confidence is fostered precisely on a day-to-day basis, for example, by reminding them of their achievements, letting them take safe risks, challenging them to get out of their comfort zone, allowing them to make mistakes, giving them responsibilities according to their age …

How will their childhood self-confidence affect them in adulthood?

A child who grows up with confidence is himself or herself will be a confident adult, a successful adult, since confidence provides them with security, self-knowledge (constructive), the social aspect necessary to interact with their peers, autonomy, the security of feeling capable … It will be a tolerant, daring, assertive and, surely, persevering and passionate adult.

At the end of the story, you include a very useful guide for parents and educators. What benefits will reading this story bring to families?

This quick guide offers both parents and educators the opportunity to bring awareness to the harm that labels can do to our children and gives us the opportunity to reflect before we speak, to pay attention to the words we use, as well as to gestures or even tone of voice.

Likewise, it invites parents to use positive language, I would say “ecological” language, and to encourage children to develop positive reflection, critical thinking.


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