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Careful the things you say, children will listen

I took my 4 year old son to a birthday party last week. Just before we got there, he fell over and so was a bit tearful and clingy when we arrived. He didn't want to join in with the rest of his friends who were being entertained by a well-known local clown. Tom's a very confident child and is usually very good at joining in so I knew that this out-of-character behaviour was because he'd just hurt himself. As a result, I was quite happy to let him sit on my lap for a bit until he'd settled down.

When the party entertainer saw that Tom wasn't taking part, he came over and said ?Come on, Mr Shy Boy. Come and join in!? He walked away and I said to Tom, ?Go on, Tom?. And Tom responded with ?I can't, Mummy, I'm shy?. Although I didn't show it at the time, inside I was quite annoyed. Although well meaning, the flip comment that had just been made in front of my son was inaccurate and unhelpful and, while I don't think Tom believed it about himself, it gave him a good reason not to join in.

I've always disliked the word "shy". I much prefer to say that somebody lacks confidence because this suggests it is something that can be remedied unlike shyness which is perceived as a character trait. If somebody is labelled as shy, they'll live up to it and remain so. My son does not lack confidence so I just ignored his temporary clinginess and he then joined in. But it did make me think about how careful we should be when we describe our children, and especially in front of them, because children really do listen. If you describe your child as shy in front of them then they are very likely to continue being so. And if they aren't shy and want to get out of an activity, it can also give them a good excuse!

When children come to Perform, they come for lots of different reasons. Many come to simply have fun through drama, dance and singing. But many children come because they lack confidence and our special games and exercises and the nurturing quality of the classes really help to develop a child's confidence skills.

When a child comes to Perform for the first time, we always ask their parents to tell us about their personality but, crucially, this is always when the child is not present. It's not unusual for a parent to tell you that their child is shy, but I think it is essential that the child doesn't hear this. Once a child feels their personality has been "defined" in this way, it's hard for them to believe they can change it. I also think we should avoid telling a child that they are "naughty", "cheeky" etc. I think it's better to say ?that was naughty behaviour" or "what you did was naughty?, rather than ?Dan, you are a really naughty boy?.

Does anyone else have experience of their child being labelled and them living up to it?

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    From michelle twin mum
    Really interesting. I am always aware that we need to define the behaviour and not the child but I have never thought about it in terms of them being shy.

    One of my twinnies can be shy at first and the other not, so we need to be really aware that we do not hightlight this.

    Cheers Mich x
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