Why getting judgey about parenting is ok

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Yotsuba & Aaaaargh!This tweet showed up in my reader the other day: Realised something about myself today: I am not non-judgey enough to read Families posts on Offbeat Home. I don’t even have kids! WTF do I know?

I laughed and appreciated the tweeter’s perspective: how I wish more people on the internet would admit “WTF do I know?” But here’s the thing for me: The key to reading about families isn’t to avoid all judgement, but to recognize when it’s happening. Seriously, I’M judgey as hell, and I publish the freaking site!

For me, the goal is not to kill the judgment (impossible! irrational!) but to observe which issues make it flare up. I think there’s a lot to be learned from observing one’s judgments, and “Wow, I’m a judgmental bitch. Maybe I should work on that…” is just the first and most obvious lesson.

For me, when I feel parental judgment flare up (and trust me, this happens all the time on Offbeat Home!) I use it as a tool to examine my own motives and values. That judgey feeling tells me, “Uh, clearly this is a topic I have some strong emotions about…why?” I try to ask myself why I care — what are the ramifications of someone doing something differently than me? What can I do in my own life to ensure that I’m living with integrity on this issue? What are my personal experiences with this issue that make it so important to me?

(Obviously, there are limits to this concept: I think we can all agree we have judgments about child abuse and neglect — but then again, it’s intense to see how opinions vary on what exactly constitutes abuse or neglect.)

In running Offbeat Home, my goal is NOT to find consensus. (Impossible!) Nor is my goal to eliminate all judgement. (Although I do eliminate judgmental comments.) My goal is to expose readers to as many perspectives as possible, so that we can examine our own beliefs, learn from our judgments, and gain greater insight into our OWN parenting values.

Comments on Why getting judgey about parenting is ok

  1. I love reading this site to find out what people are doing as parents and I definitely find I develop parenting opinions despite not being a parent myself. One thing I think this site has helped me do is to examine my kneejerk reactions (which I keep to myself because no parent wants advice from someone who doesn’t have kids) and try to reframe judgment as “I think I would do that differently but I’m sure her/his children will still grow up to be reasonably adjusted contributing members of society and if they don’t it won’t be because of that.”

    Very rarely have I encountered anything that inflames my judgement enough that I cannot reasonably say that to myself… and when it does, I examine further.

  2. How do you not be judgmental when — from your perspective — you are “just trying to help?”

    For things like wipes, lotions, shampoos, disposable diapers, sugar, TV, etc. there is controversy, and maybe you should hold your tongue.

    But what about things that haven’t happened yet? Some people don’t think circumcision is child abuse, and some do. If someone already circumcised their son, maybe it’s not your place to say. But what if they haven’t yet but have told you they are planning to? If you are trying to stop the action before it can take place, how do you do it without being judgmental?

    • Two things:
      1. Ask before you offer any advice.
      2. Frame everything as just YOUR experience, which acknowledges that their experience (and therefor decision) may be different.

      So for instance, you might say, “Are you considering whether or not you want to circumcise? Would it be helpful to hear what we went through in making our decision?”

  3. I’m so happy I found offbeat mamma. While I am not as eccentric as other mammas here, I am off the beaten path, which includes respecting everyone for whatever choices they make, whether I think they’re right or wrong– they may not think those choices are wrong. Now, locking your child in a closet– obviously wrong, and it should be rectified. Smacking your kid in the middle of the store for acting like as crazy as a box of frogs? Grey area. I just let people do as they do, as long as they understand and respect that I will do as I do. Generally we all get along then.

    P.S. May I have more DIY blogs? I love you guys for them… its actually how I found you in the first place! <3

  4. Ariel & Stephanie…what I find the most helpful, personally, when I read thought-provoking posts like this is when you include ways to use the issues to consciously and thoughfully bring awareness to MY OWN stuff. Example: “For me, when I feel parental judgment flare up, I use it as a tool to examine my own motives and values. That judgey feeling tells me, “Uh, clearly this is a topic I have some strong emotions about…why?” I try to ask myself why I care — what are the ramifications of someone doing something differently than me? What can I do in my own life to ensure that I’m living with integrity on this issue? What are my personal experiences with this issue that make it so important to me?”. I love being able to support others through this community, but I am mostly here to find clarity about the values and parenting styles that best fit me and my family. This includes challenging those ideas from time to time. So…thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me do that here!

  5. This is such a fantastic post! It has really made me think differently about judgement and about how I can deal with/use my own feelings of judgement when they come up, to make me a better person/parent (or even just to be more clear on who I am as a person/parent). I hadn’t thought of it this way before! Thank you!

  6. A lot of folks in the comments have repeated the belief that one should keep quiet because “I don’t know what I am doing”. I find that I try to keep quiet, for perhaps an opposite reason, I have found what works for us, for now, and I would guess that whomever I am observing is doing the same. It enables me to feel confident, and to not judge another — at least theoretically. 🙂

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