The topic of parental judgement has come up in some communication I’ve recently had with other parents, and has made me realize: it happens. I think at one time or another we have all experienced a critical comment or two about our approach to child-rearing. Parenting is a topic that is varied, important, and extremely personal. No two children, parents, or families are alike, so neither are any two parenting styles. Yet, we often hear comments and concerns from others about about the way we’re doing things with our kids. Criticism, whether it’s given directly or passively, leave us feeling angry and offended, maybe even a little hurt or doubtful of the choices we’re making. It has happened to me, and it has brought me down.
But lately, it’s been bringing me down less and less. Maybe as my kids get older, there is less to criticize. Maybe I’m becoming more aware of other parents’ perspectives (hence, their own struggles). Maybe I’m just maturing as a parent.
The more I hear harsh or judgmental comments from others about some aspect of my life, the more I come to realize that those comments are more a reflection of the person’s own feelings than they are a criticism of me.
If we are not confident in our decisions in how we raise our families, we are susceptible to the weight that our critics will bear upon us. If we are not standing tall, there is room on our backs for the burden of someone else’s emotions. Because that’s where judgement comes from: emotion.
- Judgement comes from anger. Someone is upset–either about the issue at-hand or about something unrelated–and they’re lashing out with harsh words and a critical tone.
- Judgment comes from fear. Someone is afraid for your safety, a child’s safety, or their own safety; afraid of losing face; afraid of making a mistake; afraid of being wrong; afraid of being judged by others.
- Judgment comes from insecurity. Someone is trying to build up confidence in their own decisions by finding fault in yours.
- Judgement comes from hurt. Someone close to you is taking your choices as a slight against them.
- Judgement comes from guilt. Someone feels remorseful for a mistake from their past and surfaces in the form of “helpful” criticism.
So what do we do when faced with judgmental comments? We stand tall. Don’t give another person’s displaced emotions a place to rest on your back. Know yourself. Know your family. Stay informed. Be confident. Know that the critic’s feelings are about the critic, not you.
It can be hard to withstand critical comments; some are well-meaning, while others have no such intent. But we can always respond to speaker’s feelings instead of their words.“It sounds like you have experience with this kind of situation…That must have been very difficult…You are worried I’m making a mistake…You made the best choice for your family…You’re afraid this decision will hurt us in the long run…” Acknowledge their feelings, either out loud in conversation or silently in your head to remind yourself of where this person might be coming. They are coming from somewhere. But that’s their journey.
When we don’t take on the emotions of others, we have the strength to stand tall for ourselves and our families.