134. Do you typecast your kids? (Labels + how they impact our parenting and our kids)

When an actor is typecast, they are locked into being cast for a certain TYPE of character, always a version of the same thing. And as parents, we can typecast our own kids. We give them labels on what they are – difficult, athletic, flighty, dramatic. 

We can also give them seemingly positive labels – like smart, pretty, nice – and those can have impacts on them as well. 

I want to empower you with:

  1. awareness around the labels you might give your kids,
  2. how it can impact your parenting experience,
  3. how it can impact them,
  4. and what to do about it 


Products recommended here may include referral links to Amazon. If you click through and take action I will be compensated at no additional cost to you. 

Do you typecast your kids? Do you give them labels on who they are?

We all do it, we label each kid. Especially when there are sets of siblings, we somehow have a need to categorize each of them like they are gang in a sitcom. 

Our labels are not facts

We feel like our labels about our kids are true, but they are our opinions.

We base these opinions on our experiences of them in the past. Then we have a judgement of them and our brain looks for evidence to build this into a belief


We look for more proof of our label

This is the confirmation bias (aka the Post-it note). Our brain is always looking for evidence it is true. In fact, our brain filters out information to the contrary.   

We build up more evidence and this belief gets very cemented. 

It is important to keep in mind that this label might be sometimes true, but also sometimes it is not true.  We need to be open to seeing both. 


The impacts that labelling our kids might have on our parenting

1. We treat them differently based on this label 

How we do treat a kid we think is ‘messy’? Do we step in and clean for them? Do we give up on trying to teach them how to clean up?

It is important to get honest with ourselves about how we react to our kids from the expectations we have of them, according to the labels we have for them

2. We shape their self-concept 

Kids look to us to help them shape their self-concept. The more they hear it, the more they live into it, the more they believe it, the more they perpetuate it.

Our labels will put them into a box of who they are and who they are not. 

3. Positive labels can put a lot of pressure on our kids as well

I coach women who also struggle with failing at the seemingly positive ‘labels’ they’ve been given over the years. It can cause a lot of pressure to sustain them, and shame when ‘failed’.

It can impact their growth mindset (see episode 49 on having a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset)


How to handle the labels we give our kids

1. Recognize the labels you have been typecasting your kids with 

Acknowledge that they are hard to give up for them and us.  

2. Separate your kids from the label

Your kid is not their behaviour.  Rather, everything they do is a decision and they are doing the work of getting good at making choices in their daily life.

3. Let them surprise you  

When we expect a pattern of behaviour from our kids, we perpetuate that.  

4. Encourage and acknowledge without the limitations of labels

  • Give them acknowledgement more than praise (focus on specific efforts)
  • Encourage them with what they are struggling with
  • Call them up with what you see in them, but leave it open for them to figure out how to apply it to their lives
  • Trying lots of new things. Vary the social roles that our kids are exposed to (as noted in the book Personality isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy)

5. Leave room for error 

We have a lot of ‘ideal human’ standards that we want our kids to constantly (100%) meet. Give them space to make mistakes and not meet the standards, without the threat of discipline or shame.  

Because people (adults and children) are not 100% awesome, 100% of the time. 

6. Leave room for change

We constantly recycle our past. Encourage our kids to think future-focussed and make choices about who they want to be and what they want in life. 

7. Watch how we label ourselves, as moms

Thank goodness I am not the same person I was 20, 10, 5 years ago! We continually grow and change. 

Keep an eye open for the labels you put on yourself as well. You will learn so much from doing the work of busting them (as I shared in Episode 76: Why it matters what you think)


Want a free mini-session on this topic?

I do offer free 30minutes coaching sessions on any topic you want support on. Please only sign up for a session if you are committed to showing up for it.

Book your mini-session here.

Find out more about coaching with Shawna right here. 



The Simple Pleasure I want to share with you is the HIGHLIGHTS HIDDEN PICTURE BOOK.  This is a book that I and my youngest son will sit and do together at the end of the night. 

It is something everyone in the house has partaken in, it can be enjoyed by all ages. But I love it most because it allows us to share an activity together, side by side, without a lot of pressure and with the ease of letting conversation happen between us. 


TO FIND THE SHOW NOTES – head on over to simpleonpurpose.ca and click LISTEN. There you will find all of the episodes with all of their shownotes and links. 



Hi friends it’s Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend and life coach from simple on purpose.ca Welcome to the simple purpose podcast, Episode 134 ish. The simple on purpose podcast is a weekly podcast for moms who want to show up for their lives with more peace, more purpose, that’s intention, more presence. So you were like present in your life with your people with yourself and passion. Because at the end of the day, this is your life, you should enjoy it. So I am a mum of three, my kids are 10, nine and seven. Now, I know that time is a valuable resource. So I aim to keep these episodes 20 minutes or less and directly to the point.

And the point we’ll be talking about today is typecasting your kids.

What is the type cast? Have you heard of this term? It’s used in the movie and film industry. A typecast is when an actor is locked into playing a similar role like a similar character. For most everything that they’re cast in some famous type cast, and this is from Screen Rant, Morgan Freeman. He’s always the wise old teacher. And that’s so ingrained in me that I almost anticipate that any spiritual experience I have is going to be voiced over by him. Drew Barrymore she’s typecast as the sweetheart and she’s cute, she’s bubbly, she’s well intentioned. It would be so strange to see her in a role that was the exact opposite of that.

But there are actors who break their typecasting. A famous one is Bryan Cranston. He was that dad from Malcolm in the Middle. And then he went to Breaking Bad and was just a totally different character. Or Jon Hamm. Okay. I will always love madman. He will be one of my top TV shows ever of all times. There’s just so many layers to it. And he was Don Draper like he embodied Don Draper. But then Did you see him in Kimmy Schmidt, he was a totally different person, just totally breaking his typecasting. Another famous one is Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter for years. And then he went on Broadway once he was an adult. And he performed in this dramatic play where he was new in it like that was very intentionally moving away from like the childhood star that he was.

And there’s actors in your own mind you probably typecast like I typecast. Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson by Parks and Rec. To me, he’ll just always be like the sulky lumberjack who drink scotch or Michael Cera from Arrested Development. To me, he’s just gonna be that like, bumbling humbled to a fault, but it’s still charming. Somehow, boy next door, like I don’t know if I could see him in any other role or take him seriously in that role.

So I want to talk about typecasting our kids. And this is a reality that we all go through As parents, we give our kids labels. There’s the shy one, the loud one creative one competitive one difficult. Sometimes these labels even start when they’re babies, like when they’re in our tummies, and they’re being like jumpy in our tummy, we might label them already. But our kids get these labels, and then they just keep hearing messages about who they are. Sometimes we tell them to their faces. Sometimes they overhear is talking to friends, that’s when I’m guilty of sometimes we mutter it to ourselves, when we’re dealing with them in the day to day. And we all do it. I know I do it more often than I like to it’s really hard not to it’s something I’m really trying to be mindful of.

And part of me also does wonder, being a mom of three kids if it’s harder with siblings, because I don’t know if there’s just the just this weird dynamic with siblings, where there’s some kind of need for people to set the scale. Like, like look at siblings as a set of people. And which type of person is each one like they’re the Spice Girls, or like a gang in a sitcom like the analytical one, the the charming one, the clumsy one, like, it’s almost like siblings are a set that we have to categorize each one or color code almost.

But one important thing to know about labeling our kids, this is the most important thing I think this is the most freeing thing is that it is our opinion on them. We treat it like it’s fact. But it’s our opinion, it’s what we have decided as we have interacted with them. So if we have a toddler who has fought us, we call them feisty. If we have a baby who’s cried a lot, we call them high maintenance. If our preschooler says no to us all the time, we call them difficult.

we’re defining our kids based on our experiences with them based on who they’ve been in the past. So we have an experience with our child, and maybe they’re fighting us to get their diaper on. And we have a judgment about it because our brain loves to categorize things. We have a judgment about what type of kid we have now in our brain says oh, that’s what I believe. Now I’m going to find evidence about how Correct This is because this is really one of the jobs of our brain confirmation bias, it seeks to prove itself true, you will always find what you are looking for.

So you start to notice defiance in your preschooler, maybe when your husband comes home, you spend a lot of energy, going into detail about how your toddler fought you that day, you will start to find all of the ways that your child is exactly that thing that your child is demanding or high maintenance.

When I coach people, I call this the post it note. And we do this to almost everyone in our lives, by the way, we decide who they are, we write it on a post it note. And then metaphorically, we put that post it note right on their forehead. So every time we are talking to them, we see that post it note, we see that label, if we’ve put a post it note on our partner, that they’re selfish, we start looking for selfishness in our partner. If we tell ourselves our in laws are difficult to deal with, not mine, by the way, they’re amazing. We will start looking for stubbornness, all we will see is how difficult they are. If we decide that our boss isn’t good at their job, we put a post it note on them in competence.

And that’s all we will be looking for. You find more evidence, your belief gets stronger, and this identity label that you’ve given your kid or anyone becomes more and more cemented. But all of this evidence is based on an opinion with lots of stories we could point to to prove that we’re right.

But here’s the interesting thing, because you’re like, No, I’m actually right about this, this is actually who they are. I want you to keep this in mind. In the back of your mind. The confirmation bias that our brain has, is actually a filter. And our brain filters out evidence to the contrary.

Here’s a really good example from my own life. So seven years ago, we bought a new truck. And as I’m driving this new truck, I start to see the same truck everywhere else, like everyone else has this truck too. Are there suddenly more of these trucks in the world? Did everyone just go buy one at the same time? I did? No, it didn’t. But before that driving down the road, my brain never thought it was useful to notice that there are similar trucks. If I wasn’t part of anything, then I wasn’t keeping my eyes open to it because my brain didn’t find that valuable information. Now it does. So it sends up a flag when it sees when the same can be true, maybe if you learn that you’re pregnant, and you start seeing pregnant people everywhere.

So I’m saying that the confirmation bias exists. And when we apply a label to our kids, and we have a lot of evidence that it’s true, I just want you to also keep in mind that sometimes it’s not true. They might be this way sometimes, but also other times they might not. But we don’t see it, we don’t mark it with our brains, our brain doesn’t find that useful information, because of the confirmation bias. So keep that in mind.

But as we type cast, our kids like we all we all do it I don’t think we can ever totally get rid of it. But my goal with this episode is to help you just become aware of it. Because when you are aware of it, you can start to see how it might actually be shaping your experience as a mom shaping your experience with your kids, and probably creating something that you aren’t really happy with when it comes to your parenting experience.

So here’s the one major way that typecasting our kids can impact our parenting. And that is that we treat them differently according to this belief. If I see that my kid is so messy, how often might I find myself stepping in and cleaning for them? Or how often do I find myself just giving up on even teaching them the skill of cleaning, I used to do this all the time with my daughter, I would say my daughter’s messy. And I still think that like it’s deep down in there. Because I have a lot of proof. Right? I can just look at her room and be like, there’s my proof how messy she is. But over time just watching her and talking with her about her room, I realized I was I was wrong. It’s not that she’s messy. It’s that she’s overwhelmed. She’s overwhelmed more than she is messy. So one thing that we do together is we make a checklist on what she needs to clean. Now she doesn’t keep it clean, she’s capable of cleaning it. She doesn’t keep it clean, but I just keep encouraging her to do it. And I hear that she has taken on this label too, of what I’ve called her over the years, and she’ll say I’m just so messy mom. And I have to kind of step back and be like, sometimes you’re messy. Sometimes you’re clean. And you’ll you’ll figure it out kind of thing. You’ll figure it out along the way.

But we do treat our kids differently when we give them a label. If we tell ourselves our kids whine all the time, get pretty honest with yourself about how you handle the whining. If we say our kid is over the top, how do we create a culture of reacting to them with this expectation in mind? a really powerful question you can ask yourself and I’ll give you some more later, but this one specifically is from Byron Katie. Whatever you believe about your kid that feels hard and fresh. Reading asked this, who would I be without this belief? As a mom, who would I be to this kid, without the belief that this kid is anti social, selfish, negative? Who would I be without this?

The second impact that typecasting our kids can have, as it locks them into a personality, that may not be who they truly are. Because what’s happening is they’re looking to us to form their self concept. You know, that game where you put a card on your forehead, and everyone around, you can read what’s on the card, and they’re giving you hints about what the card says. That’s kind of how we as kids develop our self concept. We’re looking to our caregivers, to the people around us, to tell us what they see on the card. Is it acceptable, which parts of you do you see in me that are acceptable or unacceptable, is just like they’ve learned their name. They’ve heard it day after day, and they learn their other labels, too. They will step into it, they will hear this is who I am. My mom warns the teachers about it. My brother teases me about it. My grandma got me a shirt that says it, this must be who I am. And they live in a way that perpetuates this.

Think of a label you’ve been given over the years, maybe by your parents, I had one that I’m just not athletic. I don’t have a lot of evidence that it’s true. But because of that label, I believed it. And so I didn’t dry sports, I never learned the skills. I never learned how to be athletic. Maybe there’s a label that I’m a klutz. So now I’m overly cautious. And I never learned how to have confidence in my physical body and my movements. Or maybe I’ve heard the label, I’m just like my mom, just like my dad. So I look to that parent to model life. And I never looked anyone else to be my model in life.

And this can go along with positive labels as well. You’re so nice. You’re so pretty. You’re so kind, you’re so smart. You’re so tiny. I have coached women who tell me that this has set them up to maintain an image in their lives that produce a lot of pressure and shame. Because then when they weren’t kind, they struggled with that, well, who am I? If I’m not kind, if they’ve people pleased and played the good girl at the cost of themselves for year after year? How do they ever stand up for themselves assert themselves and claim what they want in life. If they’ve been told, comments about their body size and their looks, and then you know, you have a baby in your body doesn’t go back to the same size it was, maybe your looks changed over the years. That’s something that’s temporary, and then they beat themselves up for not maintaining that.

So we can label our kids in seemingly positive ways. And it can actually impact their growth mindset. And growth mindset. There’s an episode on that episode 49. That’s a term coined by Carol Dweck. So there’s the growth mindset and the counterpart fixed mindset. a fixed mindset assumes that like our intelligence, our skills, they’re limited. They’re just like, set in stone, this is what you have, this is as good as it gets. And if you struggle with something, it means it’s not meant for you You’re deficient in this area, you should just give up, versus a growth mindset assumes that anyone can learn anything with time and effort. And if you’re struggling, then that’s actually just a natural part of the process. And if you have setbacks, it’s not like you just give up you just learn where to dig in more. So Carol Dweck tells us that when we tell our kids, for example, how smart they are, it’s almost to imply that they have this innate amount built into them. And there’s a famous study she did where she had kids taking a test, and she separated them into two groups. One group was told they would do well, because they’re so smart. And the other group was told they would do well, because they would work really hard. And the difference in those two groups was in how they handled the test.

The ones who were told that hard work mattered, they took more risks, they enjoy the challenges. The group who was told how smart they were, on the other hand, were frustrated and they fizzled out.

So if you’re like me, this can actually feel a bit overwhelming. Like don’t tell your kids they’re smart, don’t like tell them good things. I can get the negative labeling like and get behind that. But let’s just keep along this vein, I want to give you some tips that I hope will help you with complementing and encouraging your kids without typecasting them.

The first thing where our power always lies. First is to pay attention, recognize your labeling. Know that you have a lot of evidence that this is who they are. And that giving up this label, it’s gonna be hard for you. And it could also be hard for them because in a way that label has served us somehow whether we can be so proud of that academic kid. I have one of those I get it, or whether we can kind of let ourselves off the hook with a totally rambunctious kid, because I have one of those two I get. The next is to separate your kid from the label. Your behavior is not your kid and your kid is not their behavior. Everything your kid does is just Decisions is just decisions they’re making in this day in their lives. And they’re still doing the work of learning how to choose their decisions, try different ones get good at choosing what feels right to them what feels like in line with their own values. And we’re the same as adults, right? Like, we don’t get it right every time. Sometimes we don’t make great decisions.

Some questions that will help you to drop the story and then labels. Going back to that Byron, Katie, question, Who would I be without this belief? What kind of mom would I be? What would I do or not do without this belief? how might I be wrong about my kid? And how would I look at my kid without this story? If I didn’t believe this label? How would I treat them differently, which goes into our next point. . . 

Let them surprise you. They’re still learning who they are. So you’re still learning. If we are expecting a pattern, either from fear or pride, and then we perpetuate that and I constantly did this with my firstborn. I was constantly telling myself and other people always not ready. He can’t do that, oh, he won’t like that kind of deciding for him, right. And usually, it was someone else in my life and other mom friend or my sister, who would encourage me to like it, we’ll just see what happens. And I realized that I was under estimating him. And I would have kept limiting him if I kept him here. Because he surprised me, I constantly felt like I was seeing a whole new version of him that I hadn’t looked for before.

The next one is to give them acknowledgement rather than praise. Because we want to give our kids recognition and encouragement, but we don’t want to like label them, right. The first piece of advice that if you read about growth mindset that they give you is to praise effort over skill. So rather than Good job, nice work, we need to get a bit more specific on the effort that we’re seeing, you really made this colorful, you were struggling to figure it out, but you stuck with it, and then bringing encouragement into what they’re working on.

And I tried to do this with my sons, often because they were in like a culture with each other where they were scrapping and competing. And I was like, maybe they’ll never be friends. But I started I was like, Nope, that’s just an opinion that I’m going to find evidence for, what if I’m wrong, so I started to look for the times, where I saw them laughing and playing, even if to me on the surface, it’s like, they’re just screaming at each other, that doesn’t look fun, but they were actually having fun. And I would just encourage them, and I’d say, Hey, I see that you two are getting along, I see that you guys are friends. And maybe that’s almost just as much helpful to me as it is to them in their relationship.

So encouraging our kids, along with something that they’re struggling with, and encouraging them in a way that gives them room to decide what they want to do with it. I know that there’s lots of stories about kids who have had a teacher that encouraged them, or have seen something in them that called them up and out of kind of where they were. But we want to call up our kids without locking them into something. So I have a personal story with this. I was encouraged in college, by a teacher to pursue a career as a health inspector, he was a teacher that noticed that I loved the connection between microbiology and health in the environment. And so he directed me kind of led me with next steps to meet with health inspector. And that’s a job I ended up doing. Now, I think that was the way it was supposed to be. I think I was supposed to go down that path because I did. But I know it would have been a different path. Because I didn’t love that job as a health inspector, if he just made the connection for me between what he saw in me. And then we could talk about what avenues that could lead to for me.

And I think about this one, I’m talking to my daughter who’s so creative, so artistic, and they tell her I see this in her. And we talk about how it doesn’t mean she has to be like an art teacher or an artist. But just like we start pointing out all of the weird and crazy jobs that an artist could have like, we’ll be looking at something I’ll be like an artist design this or like cakes and be like an artist design that because I want to highlight what I see in them, but leave a lot of room for them to figure out how that’s going to look for them.

And trying lots of new things. In the book personality isn’t permanent. The author says we generate a personality around what our social roles require of this. So if you are the oldest, maybe your parents work a lot, you are going to step in probably to the responsible caretaker roles. We see this a lot with birth order. So varying the social roles that your kid is, in varying the situations that your kid is in, is going to help them to learn different skills and different ways they show up. Because what personality isn’t permanent is getting at is that we are a variety of things. We aren’t something that that’s fixed. But if we constantly play that fixed role, that’s who we are going to constantly be. And we will call that personality. So very the roles that your kids can be in they can be leaders that can be followers. You know, the team is more than just a captain and the players there’s so many supporting efforts that go into the success of a team. So look for different ways that your kids can try on different social responsibilities, even within your family culture.

So I’m being mindful right now that in this episode, I told you, I always keep the episodes less than 20 minutes. But I don’t want to split this into and we’re so close to finishing. So let’s, let’s get there, let’s get there together.

The next point is to leave room for error, I think we put a lot of pressure on our kids to be 100% at 100% of things like that, we just have this expectation that there’s some kind of superhuman people that are empathetic and athletic and academic and good friends and always grateful, like we have a lot of standards that we want to see our kids meet. And I think we need to leave more room for error, and more room for not being ideal human. So allowing them to not be the good one, or the smart one. Just giving that space for them to happen for that to happen without discipline or shame, because that’s love, right? Even when you mess up, I still love you. You’re still lovable. My son went into great for last year, and he worked really hard to get academic excellence all year. We didn’t even know it was a thing until I saw it on his report card. And as parents, we just kind of sat back and watched. And at the end of the school year, I was talking to him about like you did that, like that was all you that was something that was important to you. You worked so hard. You You gave it your all like that was you and you should feel really proud of the work he did. And then I said, but I think next year, you should just get all C’s. He was like, no. And they’d said, Do you know what would change if you didn’t get any A’s? Maybe you got all C’s? Maybe you got noise? Do you know what would change and he said, What? And I said nothing. Nothing would change about you, you’re still lovable, you’re still good. And I know that he is the one who wrestles the most with this label. I know that he wasn’t even sure when I told him this what to think I know he wants to excel. But I want to always leave room for him to not be perfect to not always get it right every time. Because I want him to leave room for that in himself as well.

Because if we can start leaving room for error when things are small, when things are low stakes, if they know that they can take a mistake and learn from it. And it’s okay. They’re human, like we’re not 100% awesome. We’re like 50% awesome. And we can celebrate that 50% and honor the 50%. That kind of messes it up. Because even adults do that. If we can start this when they’re young. And then as they get older, they know that they can bring things to us. And I often think to myself, How different would my upbringing have been, if I could have brought my mistakes to my parents for help, versus the mistakes, I really wanted to cover up the mistakes I was ashamed of or embarrassed about.

And this goes along with the next point is leaving room for change. When we label people, we kind of stick them in a box, we tell them who they are. And that’s what they hear. That’s what they perpetuate. Have you heard about people who’ve moved off after high school moved out of town into a new place. And they kind of seem like they become different people, they were finally given a chance to figure out who they want it to be without everyone telling them who they are. So if we can take this concept and encourage our kids to think future think of their future, because what’s happening is that we continue to define ourselves from our past, we perpetually recycle our past, we constantly show up from our past, or we keep the same cycles of who we are, and that becomes our future. But being future focused for our kids means they start to think about the choices they can make about who they want to be rather than who they have always been.

And ultimately this all comes back to us right we need to watch how we label ourselves how we typecast ourselves. I used to typecast myself as lazy, not athletic, not a morning person. I could go on I did go on in Episode 76. Listen to that one, why it matters what you think. But what I learned from busting my own limiting identities is that I am not a fixed person. And thank goodness because like the person I was in my early 20s is not the person I wanted to stay. Not that I’m thankful I’m not that person still, every year even who I was, as a mom, 10 years ago, five years ago, we continually grow and change. And as we start to drop the labels, we can give ourselves room to step into that. If this topic that we’ve talked about today has brought up something for you.

If you feel like you’re labeling your kids, yourself, your partner, and you want a free mini session where we coach on this for half an hour, go to the link in the show notes for that as well and book yourself a FREE Mini session.

Alright, simple pleasure. My simple pleasure is a book called seeking find by highlights and this is like a coloring book. But each page has certain pictures that you have to find hidden within the picture. And this is a book that me and my son have been doing for almost a year maybe at bedtime is when we sit with each of the kids, me and him we’ll get some pens and we’ll do this together. We’ll like see You can find the pictures together. It’s kind of become like a routine or ritual. And I love it. Because what I love most about it is that well, I don’t have to read a story because at the end of the night, I’m so tired. I don’t want to read anything. But we can just sit side by side. We can chat like it’s low pressure, it’s something engaging, it’s something he likes to do. And it’s just so easy. And sometimes the other kids will come up into his bed and do it with us. So it’s something that like, any age can do it is just something no matter what age range you have, if you’re taking care of other kids, or if you want to send it to grandma and grandpa’s like it’s just easy to do. It’s easy fun. If you’re interested in finding out what I’m talking about, follow the link in the show notes. I’ll link it there. The show notes if you can’t find them where you are. Go to simple on purpose dot see the website, click Listen, you’ll find all the podcasts and all the show notes. Alright friends, have a great week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai



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