Beautiful Reluctance, Revisited

As I have mentioned, I’m trying this whole write-a-novel-in-a-month craziness, so while I’m off doing that, I’ll be reposting just a few of my earlier posts.  Whether these posts are new to you or you’re rereading them, thank you for sticking by me during this month of crazy!

I wrote this open letter back in July and it is still one of my favorite posts.

Beautiful Reluctance

An Open Letter to Those Who Are Quick to Label:

Our daughter Katie is the most observant person I’ve ever known.  As a newborn, we were amazed by just how alert she was and how she would track anything that was going on around her.  As she has grown, she has only continued to surprise with us with all that she catches on to.  Honestly, we can slip very little by her.  Her sparkling hazel eyes take everything in.  She picks up on nuances and subtleties that many adults miss.

She is also rather reserved.  This is her personality. She watches and tries to figure everything out before she will participate in most activities.  Once she understands how things work, she joins in and giggles and acts silly like all kids.

Until then?  You have to earn her trust.  Let her get to know you and give her room to figure you out.  When she decides that you are someone she is comfortable around, her heart opens up and she is generous with her smiles, her laughter, and her affection.

In the meantime, please don’t refer to her as shy.

Don’t label her shy.

Don’t ask us in front of her if she is shy.

Please, don’t even use the word shy around her.

Here’s why:

The labels that we place on children impact how they come to see themselves. If we tell her that she is shy, she will soon tell herself that she is shy, and that won’t do. If she believes herself shy, she might possibly hide behind that label, rather than continuing to observe until comfortable and then participate.

Being reserved is not a character flaw.  She is not defective.

So instead of calling her shy, perhaps you could say that she is discerning?  Or observant? Or reserved?  Or reluctant.  You may even call her hesitant.

But, I would prefer that you just call her Katie.

She is lovely and she is our daughter.


  1. AMEN! What a great post about how what we can casually say can be interpreted by a young and forming mind.

  2. cristina

    OMG I LOVE this post. You are so right in that we have to be careful with the labels we give children, even if they seem harmless. My oldest is very much like your Katie in that he observes and takes everything in first, once he figures things out he puts himself out there. I don't see it as something that needs to be changed in the least, it's who he is and I try to honor it.

  3. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I had not read this one before (I KNOW!) so I'm glad you reposted. I am very aware of labels and have to be careful I don't do it with my own kids.

  4. Yuliya

    So right, labels just won't do, words are powerful, thank you for the reminder.

  5. Renee

    I love your description of Katie! You’re right, labeling can be detrimental.

  6. Natalie

    "I prefer that you just call her Katie" – I love that! I am guilty of saying that Tater is shy…I never looked at what that label could do to him since he hears me say it. Thanks for opening up my eyes on this :)

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