Judgey McJudgerton~In Defense of Parents Judging Other Parents
judgment (n.): the formation of an opinion after consideration or deliberation; an authoritative opinion; the ability to form an educated opinion using discernment, wisdom, and common sense
There is typically a backlash in the form of accusations of judgmentalism and intolerance whenever a passionate opinion is publically expressed, and that is no less true in the parenting world. The fact is, though, that all of us, simply by virtue of being intelligent human beings, make judgments. That is what we are designed to do. It’s how we learn. It is the purpose of education, research, and experience to impart the wisdom to make judicious decisions (i.e. judgments).
In an age when calls of “be true to yourself” and “do what seems right to you” abound, it’s surprising that expressing an opinion that seems right to you is so quickly met with condemnation. Even when an opinion is well thought out, thoroughly researched, and politely expressed, it is still often the target of such accusations.
Many times, of course, passion causes opinions to be expressed in less-than-kind and even condemning terms, and in those cases the backlash may have some justification. But when a well-considered opinion is stated courteously and still engenders charges of judgmentalism and intolerance, it is clear that a deep misunderstanding of the healthy and normal nature of judgment vs. the intolerant attitude of condemnation is at the heart of the matter.
To make a judgment is simply to form an opinion, whereas to condemn is to accuse and censure, based on that judgment. For instance, if through my education and life experiences I have formed the considered opinion that a person who wears a shiny red nose, big floppy shoes, and a painted-on smile is, in fact, a clown, then when I see someone who fits those parameters I will judge them to be a clown. That is a normal, positive, human expression of opinion, not a negative expression of disapproval. If, however, in my judgment of them as a clown I ostracize and reprove them, then I have moved from judgment to condemnation.
There is, however, a middle ground in the form of constructive, rather than destructive, criticism which has a place in the formation and expression of passionately held beliefs. If I have formed the judgment that hitting children is wrong no matter what euphemism is used (i.e. spanking, smacking, paddling, etc.), then I may express that opinion politely, but honestly, and let someone know that their choice to hit their child is, in my opinion, a mistake, and I will offer alternatives.
In the same way that gentle parenting is not un-parenting and will sometimes involve setting and enforcing boundaries, offering parenting guidance, by its very nature, sometimes includes constructive criticism. Just as a gentle parent may say to a child, “You’re having a hard time, aren’t you? I’m so sorry. I can’t let you hurt people, though. Hands aren’t for hitting. Let’s talk about some other choices you can make next time you’re upset so you’ll be ready,” a gentle response to a parent who uses physical punishment to control their child may be, “I can see you’re having a hard time. Hitting a child is unacceptable, though, for any reason. Let’s discuss a few alternatives so that you’re prepared with some practical, effective parenting tools the next time a behavior issue arises.”
That is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. When I take my carefully researched, thoughtfully considered, educated opinion and apply it to a specific situation, communicating it kindly, but clearly, I am sharing my insights with the intention of opening a dialogue that will, hopefully, shed light on a subject. It may not be the person involved in the situation who learns something new, especially when it is a third-party article being discussed rather than a parent seeking guidance, but those who read what I’ve shared may go on their way with a different, perhaps gentler, perspective about parenting, and that is the point.
Kindness is always the right answer, but it is not kind to withhold information that may benefit someone, and that is where gentleness plays its starring role…in the kind, honest sharing of wisdom; in respectful, open dialogue; and in the strength to stand up for those too young and helpless to stand up for themselves.
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.