Judgment is both a brilliant tactic and a block to effective, connected parenting. It can be a wall or a bridge. The key is in how we use is.
Judgment is brilliant in that it allows us to know what is safe in the world and what is unsafe. Someone once commented in a workshop, “We are judgment machines.” We are, and it is not something to deny or eradicate. It is something to hone and be aware of.
Judgment gets in the way when we negatively label someone. For example, when our child does not take “no” for an answer, we may judge them as stubborn or disrespectful. We may not even be aware we are doing this, and there is a quick cascade of feelings — irritated, annoyed, angry, frustrated — that may fuel our reaction. That reaction may be punitive, such as letting our child know how angry we are, taking something away, withdrawing love or using time out.
As Becky Bailey, author of Conscious Discipline, notes, “Punishments are all about us and our judgment of the behavior, rather than about the child’s actions and how they have impacted others.”
Because that judgment is a trigger, we have a knee-jerk reaction and may regret how we managed the situation. Here is where judgment builds a wall. It becomes a disconnect. Our judgment is falsely indicating that we are unsafe. It undermines our confidence and our leadership.
How do we handle this so that we can be discerning without the emotional cascade that triggers a blowup or upset? With great curiosity, we take a look inside ourselves. We also begin to see our child in a different “frame” so that we can provide feedback rather than blame.
First, by looking inside, you become keenly aware of what you are feeling. You can explore what is going on with you before responding to the situation.
Secondly, you can redefine your judgment. If you are viewing your child as resistant, begin to see how they are self-leading. If your child does not take “no” for an answer, see how they are persistent and simply going for what they want. Finding a way to build a bridge with your discernment means that you are not attached to a demeaning or limiting label.
That shift is also the beginning of a conversation. It is then that you can provide feedback that isn’t tinged with an angry, irritated or snarky tone. Feedback given without the blame will be well received. For example, “I am willing to talk to you about what you want. Your “no” had a very pushy tone. What’s going on?”
Pam Dunn, author of It’s Time to Look Inside, suggests “we judge from the beauty and care about the pain.” That can set the tone for some great connections and conversations.