Ever feel like you might be the winner of the biggest loser parent contest? That your words and actions might be totally screwing up your kids for life? Yeah, me too! It is crazy just how much we allow judgment and fear drive to our choices and responses. Notice the word ALLOW. Allowing judgment to drive our actions is a choice. Most of the judgment we fear is in our minds. It is not really the judgment of others as much as it is the judgments of ourselves.
Have you ever been in public needing or wanting to withdraw from an activity, your child resists, and you feel self-conscious about what people are hearing, seeing, and thinking? Well, guess what, most of they time they are not judging, they are sympathizing with you because they have been there too! (It sounds like: "Thank goodness it’s not my child today!")
Our opportunity as parents is to notice those moments when we are responding from a place of fear and make a different choice. Because the fear we are feeling is going to lead us to respond in a way that we usually don't feel great about - lashing back, controlling, or simply being rude and disrespectful. We cannot be a calm, thoughtful, empathetic and effective parent when judgment if part of the equation. It just does not happen.
I know that other parents and family members judge me about my choices in parenting. I could let that drive how I treat and raise my children. But there is a cost. The cost being the relationship I want with my kids and the character that I hope that they develop. So another choice is to choose your values and goals.
While we cannot control judgmental thoughts we can have a rebuttal prepared when they creep into our minds. If your values and goals are to foster a child who has character, confidence, resilience, and strength then you need to choose a response that will continue to lay that foundation. Your rebuttal needs to be prepared, practiced, and readily available when those judgmental thoughts creep into your mind. Mine sounds something like this, "What matters most here? What others think, or how my child feels?” This helps me to make a better choice in responding without reacting to the emotions I might be having in response to those around me and what I think they might be thinking.
This also leads me to the reality that we do judge. And judgment often stems from our own insecurities. Instead of judging others, we can model compassion for others when other parents are struggling. No matter how much we disagree with someone else's parenting, it is not our place to judge. We are not perfect human beings, and thus will not be perfect parents either. We hardly ever know the back-story around why someone might do or say something, so keep that in mind.
When you see a parent struggling, connect back to your own challenging parenting moments and give them an "It's so hard to be a parent …. " look or comment. This is your opportunity to not just help another parent out, but to also model for your child what compassion and empathy look and sound like.
Want to get better at using empathy with your children? Read How to Use Empathy to Create Connection, Calm and Greater Ease