Labels are for shirts, not for people
-- The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Telling a child "You are a liar" or "You are a lazy person" is giving them a label and, in time, he or she will start believing that they actually are that sort of person. Eventually the child will live up to this expectation. If my parents or teachers say I am a liar — s/he will reason, consciously or subconsciously — then I can tell lies; if they say I am lazy then that is exactly how I should behave, since that is what I am.

Our perception of who we are is deeply influenced by the labels that other people attach to us. And when it comes from people who are important to us, these labels stick much longer.

When it is necessary to criticize our children's actions, we should say things such as, You are an honest person and should not be saying untruthful things" and, "You are a person who works hard at accomplishing things, and it is unlike you to procrastinate. We should condemn the action, not the person. We need to say: "You are such a good person; such action does not fit you." If this is said strongly enough and often enough, eventually the child will see him or herself this way and strive to be the good and kind person his or her parents say s/he is.

We cannot make permanent changes in our behavior unless we make permanent changes in our own minds about who we are. A drug addict can temporarily stop taking drugs, but as long as he still believes he is a drug addict his behavior will eventually return because his actions will be incongruent with what he believes he is. Only when we "re-program" ourselves into a positive self-image can we effect true and enduring changes in the way we act and relate to others.

Try it — it works!