Judgment Is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.

A few days ago I read a very raw, honest post from Janelle of Renegade Mothering. In fact, her post was a topic that I was going to explore for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting. It is something that I feel needs to be discussed more openly and honestly.

You see, everyone is judgmental. We all judge each other to some degree whether we are aware of it or not. As Janelle points out, it is just how we have been programmed. I love how she explains this: It’s like an auto-pilot reaction to life. I have been conditioned by my social, economic, cultural backgrounds to perceive the world in a certain way. I’ve developed ideas along the way regarding right or wrong, educated or not, classy or not – the list continues. I’ve been told things from a very young age by parents and teachers and the media, things that wedge themselves into the crevices of my mind whether I want them there or not. I can’t just THINK that s*#t away. I can’t just erase them with positive self-talk and Oprah.

So where do we go from here? How can we be positive, non-judgmental human beings striving to kumbayah together? I really do not think that we can. I think that as Janelle stated, we have to embrace the fact that we will judge and move on.

How does this work in the realm of parenting? Don’t we all have enough guilt and anxiety without worrying about being judged by others?

First, and pardon my language, motherhood sh*#s all over you. Everything you thought you knew about yourself – out the window once you have children. Everything you judged other parents for doing – you do or have thought about doing. Everything you had hoped for in life – check the backseat of your car because that is where you will find it!

And yet – we continue to judge each other knowing full well that we are all truly trying to do the best that we can (well, most of us anyway – there are certainly exceptions).

So ok – we all need to embrace our inner judge but in order to support each other in this parenting journey, let agree not to condemn.

For example…I am in the store the other day and there is a mother and her two toddlers (twins I suspect). They are both in the shopping cart and on full meltdown. The mom is flustered and looking pretty embarrassed. Now – I truly did NOT judge this mother because lord knows I have been there with Tiny before. I get it. But the clerk who was stocking the shelf looked really put out by having to witness such an obvious lack of parenting ability. I mean, she was shooting this mother some serious daggers. As I walked up the aisle past the mom, I smiled and said with complete sincerity, “these are the perks they fail to tell you about when you read the raising children manual huh?” She let out a huge sigh, shook her head, and said “Amen! Sometimes I have no clue how we even make it through a day.”

I didn’t do anything special other than offering some warm words. I could have been the clerk condemning her for “having screaming children.” But instead, I showed compassion which in turn gave her a little boost to make it through her shopping trip. Now, had it be me, I would have probably left the store and not tried to continue with the trip until I made sure Tiny’s needs were met. (Unless of course it was imperative that I be there at that exact moment). But I knew nothing of this woman’s circumstances. Who knows what her day was like and why her toddlers were on full meltdown. It is not my place to worry over such things. My place is show kindness to someone when they need it most.

I am judged all the time as a mother. And I am fine with that. Go ahead. Judge away. If you think that YOU can parent MY child better than me, than by all means speak up. But no one ever does. Because they are only interested in boosting their own egos by thinking they KNOW what is going on and that they can do it better than me.

Many mamas clearly judge me for running errands in yoga pants, a sweatshirt, and hair that hasn’t been washed in a week. Yeah – I look tore up most of the time. But guess what? My child doesn’t sleep well, I get dirty the minute I put clean clothes on, and I do not need to add to the laundry pile by changing into clean clothes that are “cute” five times per day. I don’t have the energy or the desire. And if another woman wants to condemn me for my lack of fashion, have at it. You are a small person to begin with.

Compassion for others and respectful disagreements are what we need to agree to strive for. It’s ok that another family parents their children differently than I do. I have friends who live and breathe by the rewards and punishment system. I have friends who use mealtimes as a bribery technique. I have friends who spank. I have friends who yell. I have friends who have tried cry-it-out. This does not make them bad people. They know that I parent differently and prefer a gentle, mindful approach based on connection, warmth, and understanding. When asked, I offer advice based on parenting approaches that have worked for me. But if my friends decide not to try them, so be it. It is not my place to force my views. I can educate when the opportunity presents itself. I can offer support and understanding. I can be honest and tell my friends that I personally have huge concerns with rewards and punishments and that I see bribery as an ineffective parenting tool. I can help them understand why spanking will likely cause long term issues. But I will never condemn them for how they parent (unless the line to abuse is crossed).

And yet, after saying all this, I do judge. Even though I have yelled at Tiny before, even though she refused to hold my hand crossing the street and I grabbed her under the armpits and held her out in front of me while marching across the street without so much as an ounce of compassion, even though I told her she could have a chocolate chip if she took her medicine. I see a mother yelling and I sometimes catch myself thinking “what an awful way to parent.”

I wish these thoughts would go away. I don’t know what is going on for this mother and her child. All I see is the moment. It is not fair to judge a moment. So what I do strive for is acknowledging that a judgment thought entered my mind then releasing it out into the world. And I refuse to let it turn into condemnation.

Tiny and I were out and about one day and as we turned the corner from our house I saw that a new family had moved in to a rental home. The mother was bundled up (it was 30 degrees outside) and was sorting through boxes. Her daughter who was no more than 14 months old was standing next to her in a sleeveless sundress and nothing else. No shoes, no sweater, no hat…nothing. I judged her immediately. “What a horrible mother” I thought. Then I stopped, released my criticism and gave her the benefit of the doubt that maybe all the warm clothes were packed (and that was what she was looking for) or perhaps the little girl was having one of those almost-a-toddler independent moments and mom was too worn out from moving to do anything about it. So yes, I judged but did not condemn. Although in this case, I should of because of an almost tragic incident a few days later…but that is a whole other post.

My message to all you parents, especially mothers, is that yes – you will probably judge and that is ok. It’s not completely your fault. Your brain has been programmed by a society norm. Release the judgment before it becomes condemnation. Try to see things from the other perspective. And when you know someone is judging you – let it go. Ignore it, do not waste your scarce energy on it, and feel compassion for the person that has chosen to place judgment on you. Clearly, they have little else to do in that moment other than judge.

Life is too short for BS. Let’s just live our lives and not worry about what everyone else is doing if it does not have a direct impact on us. We’d all be a lot happier without the added pressure of judgment from others. There is only one person who should judge you – and yes, that is YOU!

Enough said. Time to kumbayah!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)

  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it’s from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural – Just Don’t Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother’s groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the “Mommy-space” online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles… — Jenny at I’m a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents’ worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting – Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she’s learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others’ parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t — We’ve all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you’re stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think “Gosh, I wish I said…” This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought “Gosh, I wish I said…”
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don’t Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she’d want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying “I’m Right and You’re Wrong” Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won’t care — Cassie of There’s a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don’t know what to do when you’re confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky – Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert’s Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.

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  1. says

    Oh, this is SO true. I judge all the time. But then I remind myself, “That’s been me.” I know that, on my worst days, I’m exactly the sort of person I would judge. But I try to assume that the other person is on *their* worst day, and that most of the time, they do much better.

  2. says

    I also believe that making judgements is perfectly natural however we do not need to act on those thoughts and negatively affect others because of it. Much of those initial thoughts are based on very little data, and are essentially assumptions rather that truths. We also tend to project ourselves onto others as well, and harsh judgements on others are often the same issues we deal with ourselves. I think that compassion towards ourselves goes a long way in developing compassion for others as well. Just like no one but ourselves knows our circumstances that led to our behaviors, we have to extend that benefit of the doubt to others as well (in moderation of course, making excuses for abusive behavior is not okay either).

  3. says

    Wow. Gorgeous new re-design, sista! I’m totally ga-ga.

    I’m learning that every time I judge someone it’s because I judge myself. When I condemn (in my mind) a mother for ignoring her child who is screaming and struggling in a stroller, I am really judging myself for the time(s) I’ve put my own priorities ahead of my child. When I remember to focus on my own shortcomings, I am able to feel compassion for other parents. Other people’s actions are really a mirror for our own insecurities and beliefs.

  4. says

    I like how you see a line between judging and condemning. It’s hard to stop the knee jerk “oh my god i would never do that” in you head, but we can stop before we go on to condemning them as an awful parent (and giving dirty looks) and we can choose to respond with compassion. Great post.

  5. says

    I’ve thought about this conundrum as well — I like how you separate out judging and condemnation.

    Random thoughts: (1) That reminds me that if and when I do my parent fashion challenge, I want to make it clear I don’t judge OR condemn anyone who chooses not to dress up. 😉 (2) I often wonder if people are condemning me because my four-year-old refuses to wear a coat, ever. Or socks. Or hold my hand crossing the street. (3) You can’t end on a cliffhanger about an almost tragic incident!!

  6. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says

    It is so human (and culturally ingrained) to make judgments.In Nonviolent Communication, Rosenberg differentiates between judgments (thoughts that alienate us from others) and values (guiding principles we live by). There is a difference between judging someone (“ugh, how can she yell at her kids like that?!?”) and observing w/o evaluating based on values (“I do not believe in punitive discipline for my own children.”) It’s a matter of retraining our thinking – and it is so hard!!

  7. says

    I also like how you seperate judging from condemning. I do however think that we can practise being ‘non-judgemental’ by taking the focus of what others are doing and just trying to be the best mothers we can be. I found that once I stopped concerning myself with other people’s choices – It changed how I percieved them and the world. I’m not saying I don’t still judge – I’m certainly not perfect but I feel there are certain things we can do to break that cycle of judgemental thinking which sometimes is just as simple as catching ourselves in the act!

  8. says

    Well said, and to the point! Being judgmental really is ‘natural’. Not only do we have socio-cultural influences, we also have an innate ability to judge. It’s what saved our hides thousands of years ago! But today, the threats aren’t to our village from another warring tribe. Today, the threats are really just to our egos. I’m starting to embrace that reality more and more. Go ahead and judge me, then. Meanwhile, I keep working on not condemning others.

  9. says

    My momma once said some similar words about judgment, that it is human to judge.

    I think that’s where I connect with this post in that it is human to judge and we can observe ourselves doing it and then choose to change the way we think about ourselves and others along with recognizing judgment for what it is – conglomeration of experience, culture, etc.

    To me, there’s a space within each one of us that is in touch with the moment, as you mentioned. In the moment we can feel within ourselves both our humanness and the space that gives rise to it, that which does not judge or condemn. Of course… there will be people that disagree and as you mentioned, possibly we can all agree to disagree at times. :)

    I do appreciate the suggestion to condemn, that is certainly the least we can do for ourselves and other if we expect or desire the same. Love to you and yours.

  10. All Natural Katie says

    This topic can be applied broader to everything in life. I judge all the time and catch myself. I am trying to be better about it, to understand the situation from the other person’s shoes. Sometimes, I even come up with creative stories to rationalize for myself why the person is doing something in a way that is different from my thinking.

  11. says

    The point that really hit home for me is not judging a “moment” that you happen to witness. I try to always remember that I’m never seeing the whole picture. And I sincerely hope no one would condemn me for some of the “moments” they may have seen in passing. Yikes.

  12. Jessie says

    I’ve struggled with letting go of my judgements and my husband says I’ve lost the ability to control my facial expressions. I feel terrible about it and usually get scolded by my husband for not being more considerate and the truth is, I usually toss the judgement out the window immediately but, by that point it’s usually too late. There’s already judgement written all over my face.
    Beautiful post, great advice.

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