The joy of letting kids be kids without labels

I’m a huge advocate for teaching others in our society why it’s important that we don’t label kids with disabilities. As a special needs mother, it’s my job to advocate for my child, as it is for so many other parents. When it comes to harsh judgments, opinions, and comments. Those things should be left at the back door.

Today I was asked to be on the radio to discuss how I felt about having a child with a mental illness, and how I felt kids with disabilities don’t deserve the labels people often give them. Heck, it’s not just kids. We as a society on a whole need to label everything. We have to attach a stigma to something. What we don’t realize is that stigma wraps itself around a child like a vice and can become a dark spot that stays with them for the rest of their lives.

One thing that really annoys me is the stigma attached to kids with disabilities and how it affects them. It’s important that kids are allowed to grow and flourish. To discover who they are and what they want from life without any type of label getting in the way of that. I am very honest and open with both of my boys about my own mental illness. There is no reason for me to hide it from them. It’s a fact of life. Not everyone is perfect. We all have some type of challenge we face.

I also want to make sure that my youngest child feels comfortable dealing with his own issues. Kids with disabilities often have a hard time knowing where they fit in.

I want my son to understand it’s important that he accepts himself for who he is. His disabilities don’t define him but they do add to the person he is. 

  • I’m short
  • I have green eyes
  • I have black hair
  • I have a discolored complexion
  • I’m fat
  • I have cancer
  • I snore like a wild boar
  • I have anxiety disorder
  • I have bipolar disorder

These are all labels that could be attached to me. That doesn’t mean they make-up who I am, what I’ve been through in my life, or which direction I’m headed.

The other day my son wanted to paint his nails with me. He sat beside me while I was doing my own nails and asked if he could do his as well. Of course, I was more than happy to let him explore. That is when my oldest piped up, making fun of the situation. “Boys don’t paint their nails! That’s a gay thing to do!”

Boy oh boy was I on that right away.

Excuse me? We don’t talk like that in this house. Your brother can do whatever he wants. We don’t put each other down, call each other weird and just because he’s a boy doesn’t mean he can’t paint his nails!

I was angry with my son for making such accusations and teasing his little brother. Then I thought, well, of course, he will though. That’s what society does and what it teaches our kids. It’s a shame really if you ask me because I think kids should be free to just be kids, to learn and experiment and grow without facing the challenge of thinking there is something wrong with them.

We all have things wrong with us.

Nobody is perfect.

My husband helped Trace with his nails and Trace loved it. He’s such a carefree and open kid. He didn’t let what his brother said upset him. He did his nails, then removed the color and painted them again!


Gosh, I sure hope my son always stays carefree. That he can always be himself. Labels and all. I hope he tries new things he’s never done before without worrying what anyone thinks. 

Have you ever had anyone give you a label?


  1. Jessica June 17, 2012 at 5:04 am

    I just love how you are raising your kids. It's just some people are very intolerant that if they don't agree with what they're seeing, they'd critic it (I am sometimes like this, but I am learning to be more tolerant of others.) I think this is what the world lacks. Thanks for posting this and encouraging change.

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author June 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      Awww thank you for your kind words Jessica. It's nice to know and I hope I'm doing a good job with them. They seem to be good kids, but life is about learning, right. Thanks for posting 🙂

  2. Denise G June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    What a great post! You sound like such a great mom! As for boys with nail polish – I think it looks great on Steven Tyler – don't you?

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author June 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      hahaha yes it does! 🙂

  3. Shash June 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

    In our house we have a similar saying, "In this house we build each other up!" and they have to repeat it several times for each insult they fling at each other. It's hard to drill/example how to be supportive, loving, compassionate & full of grace when society/tv/school is so opposite but we march on, one step at a time, doing the very best we can.

    Tell him that my oldest son loved to get his nails painted too. 🙂

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author June 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Oh I love that use that too! That's what I tell the boys. Breaking each other down serves no purpose. I love your method and I will implement that.

  4. Paula Schuck June 13, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Hi Jodi:

    I talk about this a lot too because while we all want our kids to be totally carefree and accepted and supported for who they are, reality is that schools here at least are I'll equipped to help or support those kids unless they get a label. I have been told my daughter is the only child at her school generating any paperwork, therefore the only one generating an ea for support. That upsets me for the other kids who need help but don't get it because parents refuse to accept a potential diagnosis, or because school fails to advocate enough on behalf of the students.

    Fingernails are only fingernails. Of course it is fun. Glad you embrace it as much as he does. My nephew use to wear fake long hair braids everywhere when he was like 3-8 yrs old!! That was kind of comical but whatever. Kids should be allowed to be kids.

  5. ashley picco (mamawe June 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I have no problems with my boys and painted nails – my husband and FIL however like to comment that it is for girls…. I don't understand the issue though!

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author June 13, 2012 at 12:53 am

      That's often typical of guys, I think because they've been taught it means you are gay or something and it's natural I think for boys to just feel wrong about it. But when they are little I think they forget, kids love to explore things

  6. Monica June 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I loved reading this post and I wish everyone shared your way of thinking. Your children are very lucky to have you for a mom!


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