Image: Michelle Pannell
As parents there are so many things we want to teach our children. Of course we want them to grow up to be well-rounded adults who are kind, compassionate, humble, resilient, loving, fun and display sound judgment but each of these traits takes time to develop and serious modelling from us as parents.
Of course if we are to be role-modelling these positive attributes then we need to have developed them first and realistically some are much easier than others. It is so simple to show love and affection to your child and in doing that help them to take this skill into adulthood, the same with fun but what about a trait like resilience, humility or judgement?
These skills are much harder to teach and we have to be willing to take a risk and allow our child to see us in a vulnerable state, like when we are admitting that we have made a mistake, that life doesn't always go to plan and that it is wrong to make snap judgements.
It is far too easy to jump to conclusions and make judgements about another person. We see them or a situation and within a split-second we could have made a judgement about who they are or how they live their life but that's not a good thing. Yes, it might be perfectly natural and until our brains are trained otherwise we all do it. We've all heard of the fight or flight response in a situation that scares or worries us and judgement is part of that. Have a read of this short scenario -
You see a small cute dog tied up in the street and go over to pet it. You crouch down and chatter away as you get close, offering your hand first so as not to scare it. Suddenly it starts to bare its teeth and snarl, snapping at you and pulling the lead taught. "Well, my judgement was off there" you think to yourself, "I wonder what the dog's problem is?" Then as you turn your back to walk away, you see the owner come back and it is a woman, much like you, same build, blond hair and she shouts at the dog and then hits it and you see this formally brave pup start to cower and whimper and all of a sudden you understand. You represented a risk to that poor little creature, you look like the woman who mistreats it.
We never know the story of a stranger, be it a dog or a person and that is why it is so important that we learn to use judgement in the right way. Of course we still have to make judgments every day to keep ourselves and our families' safe but we can drop the negative judgmental behaviour, the looking down on other people and the words and actions that can isolate and even devastate another.
What I've found is that the amount we judge others normally equates to the way we feel about ourselves. If we are 100% happy with our lives then it is unlikely that we will take the time to find fault with the way someone else looks or dresses but when we feel down on ourselves then it is so much easier to justify our own failings by picking theirs out too.
It is therefore impossible to drop the judgmental attitude without working on some other fundamental character traits like humility and contentment and of course it isn't always easy at first when we want (or know we need ) to change. It can be painful but it will be really worthwhile.
Here are some tips to help us teach our kids (but first ourselves) not to judge -
Be mindful - catch your own thoughts and realise what you were thinking. Negative judgements may still pop into your mind but push them away and replace them with positive affirmations.
Pause and then think before you speak or act - such a simple one but really necessary. When you catch those thoughts, don't let them turn into actions or words, remember how they are likely to wound someone else.
Think the best of people - look for the good in everyone, it is there. Even your neighbour that drives you crazy has some redeeming qualities and when you choose to focus on them you will shift the whole balance of your relationship.
Depersonalise - When someone says something that you don't like or agree with, let it go. They are just expressing an opinion or living life in their way, it is not all about you.
Look for the connection - One of the things I have discovered whilst travelling to new countries in the last few years is that even though on the surface situations might look so different, we are more alike than different. At the end of the day all the mothers I have met just want the best for their children.
Fight the fear - when you judge it comes from a place of fear but when you seek to acknowledge and address the fears you can be free from them.
Get involved - in initiatives that open your eyes to what is happening in your neighbourhood. For instance, I volunteer at the local food bank and it would be so easy to judge the people who come into the food bank with smart clothes and a pristine iPhone but then I find out their house burnt down and they didn't have insurance, so yes they really do need the emergency food parcel.
Stop judging yourself/ Feel good about yourself - Life is so much easier when you are kind to yourself. We are all fallible humans and we make mistakes, life isn't perfect and you will fall short of your own expectations at times but that is OK. No-one ever became the best they could be by beating themselves up. Admit the mistake, look for the learning point and move on.
Being content and free of negative judgement is an absolute blessing and I think Brene Brown sums it up well:
"If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people's choices. If I feel good about my body, I don't go around making fun of other people's weight or appearance. We're hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency."