To Label or Not to Label? (Toldot)

To Label or Not to Label?

“And the youths grew up, and Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents.”(Genesis 25:27)

Do you label your child(ren)? Is she the goofy, athletic one and he the quiet, musical one?

Is labeling helpful? Is it harmful?

In my experience, it’s a fine line. On the one hand, we try and identify our child’s natural inclinations, gifts and interests in order to help him develop to his potential. On the other, children can really surprise you!  Just beneath the surface may lie latent skills and passions that even he is unaware of.  If we become overly fixated on a label we won’t consider the possibility that our athlete may have artistic talent and fail to create opportunities for that capacity to emerge.  Sadly, we can inadvertently prevent those hidden gifts from being brought to life. From the womb Esau looked like a lumberjack, and he certainly was “a man of the field”, but wasn’t he much more? What might this label have robbed him of?

Rather than applying labels that are engraved, sewn or even “sharpied” in, think of them as “post-its”; use them as long as they are helpful, throw them away when they are not and if they really stick, you can always attach them with something stronger.