Once upon a time I wrote about how judgment of others is natural and not necessarily unhealthy. It is condemnation that becomes the real issue. While I did receive a few comments and emails that opposed my line of thinking, most everyone who spoke up about my post agreed that it is near impossible to avoid judging others and that yes, condemnation was the line that need not be crossed.
I received two VERY good questions as a result of that post. The first asked me to discuss how I dealt with being judged for my parenting approaches. The second asked me to elaborate on how I would verbally respond to those individuals who made rude or naïve statements about my parenting both in theory or in action.
I do not have a hard and firm response to how I “deal” with judgment. It really depends on who is doing the judging. I would respond differently to a family member than I would to a total stranger. I would respond on a case-by-case basis depending on what I am being judged for.
Sometimes judgment warrants a response. Other times it really needs to be ignored. And of course there are the times that someone’s judgment might actually get you thinking…for a good reason.
My mother-in-law used to judge my mothering, especially in my early days as a first time parent. I took offense to it when in fact she was only trying to impart a little wisdom. She was not trying to question my instincts or my decisions. She was simply trying to support me and make life a tad bit easier for me. However, I took every single thing she said as a complete condemnation of my decisions as a mother. Today, I enjoy hearing her advice and anecdotes about her experiences mothering her two children (who are 20 years apart!) I realize that she is not intruding on my mothering. She is simply trying to better understand my choices and philosophies so that she can support me as well as Tiny.
I mention this as an example of how my OWN view of judgment has evolved. What I once viewed as judgment is now nothing more than advice that I can take or leave. Today, I view judgment more as critical comments or obvious looks of disapproval from casual acquaintances and strangers. I am lucky in that my family and close friends (both in real life and virtual) support me, even if they do not parent in the same way I do.
The question of how I verbally respond to judgmental comments is a great one! I think that there are a lot of respectful ways in which to either respond to the commenter or in which to educate the commenter. In either case, I think it is important to pick your battles. Most of the time it is simply not worth the time and energy to change someone’s mindset about YOUR decision. Other times it is. I won’t spend a lot of time educating a 75 year old man on the reasons why I don’t worry about Tiny playing in the “dirty” creek. I will spend time educating a disposable diapering mama on the benefits of cloth if she makes a critical comment about how much work that must be for me. (But I won’t spend too much precious time doing so or preaching to a deaf ear!)
Having said that, here are 30 ways in which you can respond to critical or judgmental comments about many parenting decisions and practices. I kept them generic so that you might apply them to your specific situation.
- Thank you for pointing that out.
- Hmmm…interesting point of view.
- That’s interesting. What makes you think that?
- Yes, I have considered that. It just does not work for our family.
- I make parenting decisions based on what works for us.
- I respect your opinion and value your advice, but I have thought this out carefully and done a lot of research, and my mind is made up. I will be happy to respect your opinion and listen to what you have to say, but you have to respect my decision–and it is MY decision.
- Your concern is appreciated but please do not waste another second worry about my decisions.
- My child is happy and healthy. I am confident that what I am doing is the right choice.
- I had not given much thought to that point of view. Thank you for sharing.
- Although I disagree, thank you for taking a moment to share your thoughts.
- I understand that you have a different opinion but I wish you would not have expressed it in such a judgmental manner. (If the person making the comment does so in front of your children you can add in – I do not think it was kind to say that in front of my children).
- Would you be interested in why I do XYZ?
- Perhaps I can shed some light on my decision.
- Things have changed since your generation was raising children. In fact, many studies have shown that there are different ways to do things now. It doesn’t mean that what you did was wrong, it just means that there is more information now.
- What new parents really need is support, not judgment. It can really break a new mom’s spirit to hear comments like yours. Good thing I am confident in my decisions.
- As the mother of this child, this is what I want and need to do for my child right now.
- That’s interesting. Unfortunately, my child doesn’t like (insert action/thing here).
- I’ve tried that, but my child responds better when I do this.
- This is my child and my parenting choice and I will not discuss it anymore.
- I’ve researched this, discussed it and have decided . . .
- That is good in theory, but in practice it is not as easy.
- That works when the child is not yours but when you are dealing with your own child things get trickier.
- I know it might not work for everyone, but we’ve decided…
- I’ll consider that.
- There is probably some truth in what you have expressed.
- Ask, “Why do you ask?”
- Use humor. If someone asks how long you are going to breastfeed for you can respond with something like “Well, what do you think they have recess for?”
- F$%K off! (Just kidding! I wanted to see if you were paying attention or if I lost you!)
- Ignore the comment or look. Pretend you never heard it.
If you are repeatedly criticized by someone you can’t avoid, plan ahead for the next attack. First, recall what the person usually says. Plan a respectful response and practice it in your mind or with a person who knows the criticizer and what he or she might say or do. Start your response by acknowledging the other person’s feelings or perspective. “I can understand how you might feel that way . . .” OR “. . . how it might seem that . . .” Then set limits or express your feelings respectfully, “I feel . . .” or “I’ve decided to . . .” Speak for yourself, without attacking them. Remain firm. Don’t defend or explain yourself, unless someone is truly interested in your opinion.
I adore the article the La Leche League posted on their site about dealing with criticism. Their five methods of responding chart is a wonderful tool. I have included it below but please visit the full post for some additional ideas.
|Example||A grandmother is concerned about a baby sleeping in the parents’ bed.||She might say, “Carmen, I just can’t believe that you and Kelly don’t put Chloe in that beautiful crib.”|
|Ignore||Avoid eye contact, turn away, walk away, change the subject||That reminds me that I still have a load of laundry to get in. Would you watch Chloe for a moment?|
|Inform||Refer to an authority, such as a medical professional, a book or article||Although sleeping with a baby seems like a bad idea to you, I have several books that recommend it. Or, Would you like to read what Dr. Sears says about how sharing sleep may help prevent SIDS in NIGHTTIME PARENTING?|
|Humor||Make fun of yourself or the situation, not the other person||You know, you might be right. If I have to go away to college with her and sleep in a dorm, that’ll get old fast!|
|Acknowledge||Acknowledge the other’s viewpoint without agreeing or ask a question to shift the focus to the other person||I know you think having Chloe in our bed is a mistake. It’s working for us so let’s just agree to disagree, and not talk about it anymore. Or, What was it like for you when your children were babies? How did they sleep?|
|Empathize||Open the door to further conversation, demonstrate your understanding of the other’s feeling and meaning||You’re worried about Chloe sleeping in our bed because you think it’s dangerous. You don’t want her to be hurt. Or, You’re concerned about our relationship because it seems to you that with Chloe in our bed we’ll never have any private time.|