The effects of labeling children

Bullied child

                           Effects of labeling children

The effect of labeling children can be very destructive. Labeling children because of their behavior, labels such as stupid, bully, failure, you’re bad, ugly amongst other labels.

All through the day kids are involved in all types of behaviors. What can make them seem like a bully in one situation, can make them feel like a victim in another situation.

When we see a child acting In a hasty manner or negative behavior, we need to try to remember that the behavior is the problem, not the kid.

Negative labeling can let a person know that they are different from others, which causes them to shame as people. We need to remember that, identity and behavior are not one and/or the same.

When addressing bullying behavior the following points are important:

  • when a child is labeled, it causes him/her to act the role. The most important step to being a bully is being labeled as one.
  • You are assuming a child can not change when you label them. A label on a child is fixed. Truth be told, a child often wants to change and can change.
  • in some situations a child could very well engage in bullying behavior, be a target, or a bystander. In other environments, they can be bullies to brothers/sisters or both but will be afraid of older kids.
  • When a child is labeled as a bully, it takes attention away from finding the root of the reasons for their behavior such as social or environmental factors.
  • When we label a child as a bully, it leads to an increase in bullying behavior. Being already labeled, in reaction to the label, the child acts out aggressively against others, or him/herself.

Internalization and reaction of the label “bully” will often lead to dis-identification with the school my child. When a kid is already labeled as a bully, teachers do not expect the child s full potential, so what happens? The child’s performance is poor, their kids may stop playing with the “bully”. If a child is feeling disconnected from school or rejected by peers, this can lead the child to identify with the ones that reward his/her behavior, other “bullies” this is how the forming of the subculture is formed.

What should be done instead of labeling?

the next five tactics can help to curb bullying behavior.

  1. Acknowledge that bullying behavior can be changed.
  2. do not shame the child, shame the behavior.
  3. tend to need of child who has been bullied acknowledge that harm has been done.
  4. consider the social and environmental that can be leading to the cause of bullying behaviors.

recognize that both those being victimized and those bullying are valued members of the school community. Both need support through participation in the community, counseling, or anti-bullying groups. A child who bullies is usually seeking help/attention, acceptance, or need of h friends.

When bullying behavior is addressed, it makes it clear to the child that under any circumstances is the bullying behavior acceptable nor will it be tolerated. Make sure that any interaction respective and supportive while not condoning the behavior. Kids need a safe place/space where they can change their behavior so they can be successful.

Roles children play

Kids can play many roles when it comes to bullying

Kids can sometimes bully others and be bullied or witness other kids being bullied. It is important to understand the different roles kids play to prevent and respond accordingly to bullying.

It is important not to label kids that are involved in bullying

Kids roles in bullying are not limited to those who bully others or those that are bullied

Most of the time these kids need some kind of support “such as counseling, group therapy, or some other type of Anti-bullying support” to change the way they behave.

Importance of not labeling kids;

when referring to a situation of bullying behavior it is so easy to label the bullies and victims, but that could cause unintended consequences.

When kids are labeled “victims” or “bullies” ;

  1. they may get the message that kids’ behavior can not change.
  2. they fail to realize the different roles kids play in different bullying situations.
  3. could easily disregard other factors that can be contributing to this bullying behavior such as school climate and /or peer influence.

Instead of putting labels on kids that are involved in bullying behavior, focus on their behavior for example;

  • refer to the kid as “the one who bullied” instead of “bully”
  • Instead of “victim” speak of them as “the kid that was bullied”
  • instead of “victim/ bully” use the phrase “the kid who bullies others and gets bullied.”

Kids who are involved in bullying

a kid’s role in bullying behavior is not limited to those who bully others or those that are bullied.

The bullying circle

Researchers talk about “the bullying circle” which defines:

both the directly involved and those passively or actively assist in the bullying or defend against it

direct roles of bullying, are but not limited to;

  • kids who bully: these kids connect bullying behavior to their peers. There are risk factors that can contribute to the kids involved in bullying. Often these kids require support and/or counseling, to change the way that they behave and to talk about any other problems that can be influencing the
  • Kids who are bullied; these are kids that bullying behavior targets. Some factors put kids more at risk of being bullied, but not all kids with these factors will be bullied. Kids often need guidance on learning how to deal with bullying. Even if a kid is not involved directly in the bullying behavior. They may be adding to the behavior, witnessing the behavior may also affect the kid. This is why they must learn what they should do when they see someone getting bullied. Roles played by kids when they witness bullying. Roles played by kids when they witness bullying.12 n him
  • kids who assist; these kids are usually not the ones who start or lead in bullying behavior but acts as an assistant to kids who are bullying, they encourage the bullying and often join in.
  • Kids who reinforce; these kids are not directly involved in this behavior, but they do give the bullying an audience. These kids will laugh and support the kid/s that are engaged in being a bully. This kind of audience will encourage bullying to continue
  • Outsider: these kids separate themselves from the bullying situation. They neither support the bullying behavior nor do they defend the kid that is being bullied, some kids may watch what is going on but do not give any feedback on the situation, to show they are on anyone’s side. Although, providing an audience can encourage bullying behavior. These kids often want to help but don’t know-how. Learn how to be more than a Bystander.
  • Kids that defend: these kids will actively comfort the kid that is being bullied and can come to the kid’s defense when bullying occurs.

Most kids play more than one role

most kids play more than one role in bullying situations over time. They can be directly involved in bullying behavior, as the one doing the bullying or be the one that is bullied or in other ways, they can be the witness or they can be the one that assists the one doing the bullying or they can be the one that defends,

every bullying situation is different. Some kids are both they are the ones that bully others and are themselves being bullied. It is very important to note the different roles kids play because those kids that are both being bullied and bully others may be more at risk for negative outcomes, such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide.

This shows the need for all kids to engage in the efforts of prevention, not just for the kids that are known to be directly or indirectly involved.

The subject of bully prevention should be included in the school curriculum.

For all kids to be aware and know what to do in any bullying situation. Kids should never have to deal with bullying alone.

By Miriam

my name is Miriam Mendoza, I live in Bakersfield California I was born in Ogden Utah, February 1958 I am married to Felipe Mendoza


  1. Hello Miriam,

    I’m glad you wrote this article.

    My daughter was bullied in day care when she was 4 years old.

    I couldn’t believe it!

    For some reason, I always thought bullying was something that started much later for kids, like when they were 7 or 8, and learning social rules. That sort of thing.

    Fortunately, the day care worker in charge of our daughters’ group was on it like white on rice. She was already talking to the other kids’ parents by the time my wife and I figured out what was going on.

    You are very right, though. Labeling kids shames them, and it isn’t going to make anything better.

    Thank you for sharing this information, and raising awareness of these issues.


  2. Hi, Miriam
    Thank you for this informative and helpful post.

    As a parent, I recognize that we often cross the line and cannot control our anger at some of our children’s behaviour.
    So it is very easy to label our children negatively.

    But it is as you said so well, it is the behaviour that is the problem and not the child itself.
    I think that thanks to your post I will react differently next time.

    I am aware that this may affect their behavior in the future and the child will only have a false image of himself: the one we have imposed by labeling him every time negatively.
    Great post.

  3. You’ve made some excellent points throughout this article. I 100% agree that labeling the child not only causes them to act that way, but then also states it as a fact as if it could never be changed. There are so many subtleties in parenting it can definitely be difficult, but you’ve outlined some great steps to take when addressing children that are bullying, are being bullied or are going through both!

  4. This is a fabulous article on the Effects of labeling children. 

    What happens when a child is labeled is, it causes him / her to act the role. The most important step to being a bully is being labeled as one. Similarly you being called a thief will probably result in you becoming one. Role playing is predominant at a young age and that causes us to take on a role we have been branded with. 

    Raising children is a full time job. It’s also a job that isn’t easy. 


    1. Aparna , Thank you for your feed back.  It really help me to know I’m sharing strong, positive, and helpful information. Raising awareness on the effects of bullying  is  important.  Another subject that I touched on was how we can help stop bullying  at school. Teaching kids the importance of telling a responsible adult immediately.

  5. Hi Miriam!

    Great article on bullying. As a teacher we go through bully training all the time. Many times the teachers do label the students a bully because I just think we focus more on the victim than the bully. So it is definitely difficult to change the mindset of not negatively labeling the bully but only correcting the behavior. It makes me consider my actions and what I say first before I step into helping students in a bullying situation.

    1. Thank you Jordan Harrison for your comment. It is real important that we know what the damage of labeling is and how we can avoid it.  Help me spread the word by sharing with others.

      best wishes,

  6. I feel that all parents should get to read this post here. Being able to know that when we say some things to our kids, it in one way or another affects the way they behave because it is registered in their subconsciousness. I actually like what I have read here and it really is great to see here. Thank you so much for sharing this post in here. Thumbs up to you for sharing this post.

    1. Thank you Phillip for such a nice comment and I’m sure that, this is an eye-opener for many parent. I would like for all parents to see this post,  because at one time or another we have said something to our child like you are so lazy, or you are so bad. This is labeling.we need feed them positive affirmations such as you’re beautiful, you are so helpful,  you are such a good person.

  7. Such a great article, it is so true that labelling children does not help them.  Bullying is a real thing and will probably never stop I was bullied at school, one of my children and my grandchild now.  In most cases when I look back or look into the present case with my granddaughter, there is a reason – an underlying problem that causes these children to act out.  

    These children should not be labelled, they should be given the love, support and counciling they need.  Great article I’m going to pass this on to a few people.

    1. Thank you Letstret,

      I’m so glad you like this post,  it breaks my heart to know that bullying is growing stronger, but it’s no wonder, with all the hate, the racism, and because we’re fat or skinny. I do not like that and I want to apologize 😭😭

  8. Hi Miriam!

    It’s a great point to make that behavior is not a person. It isn’t a bully that “bullies” other children, but a child that has something going on in their lives that fuels the behavior. Obviously the factors of what causes such behaivor can be diverse. But, as you pointed out labeling a child, or anyone really, with a title can cause them to become more of what you confirm. Then they don’t want to lose that tough reputation. And the opposite is also true. Start speaking encouragement into the lives of those children who are obviously going through something and they will likely start becoming the person the encouragement reinforces. Instead of “you’re a bully!”, how about “you’ve been saying things and doing things that hurt others, but I know that you are not a bad kid. You are a good kid with a big heart.” I don’t mean the bullying should be overlooked or discounted. That should be addressed too, but I don’t want to write a book here on your comments. LOL

    I really appreciate your article and I completely agree with you. Hopefully more attention will be brought to the correct way to handle the children that suffer with this problem and it can be minimized. In fact, I feel that we have made positive changes in that area compared to my parents timeframe as children. But they didn’t have social media then. That’s another whole arena of bullying wouldn’t you say?

    Thanks for the post. I’ll go read more.

    1. Thank you Darrin,
      I really appreciate your comment. And it’s ok if you want to write me a book, anything concerning the topic of bullying is of interest to me. I am writing about my life on about Miriam I will add something each week. You are welcome to follow along if you would like. I tell a story of a 14 year old girl has 4 babies and 2 divorces. Girls that age probably should still be playing with Barbie’s, doing their hair or learning how to put on make up.
      Once again thank you.

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