Monday, June 9, 2014

Judge and Jury

We have all been there. You're at a party, playdate, the park, a grocery store, and your little one throws a tantrum, is "the bossy one", takes things from others, says something inappropriate, etc. You chose the scenario, but we've all been there. It's hard enough, that our job as parents is to be able to decipher this behavior, pull out the mommy/daddy trick that will defuse the situation, and do it all without breaking a sweat. Now, add on the pressure of doing this in front of dozens of judging eyes. We have all felt it.

I had a conversation with an older mommy, over the weekend, when she made the statement that, "she could just start interacting with other moms (now that her children are grown, and have their own babies), because the competitiveness is finally gone." Sad. Our best resource, as parents, are other parents, yet we feel so judged that we sever these ties. Later in the weekend, I was able to have a very insightful conversation with a long-time friend and mama, where we discussed the pressure associated with the prying eyes of other parents.

Being a parent shouldn't be about doing it "best", it shouldn't be about having the "perfect" kiddos, it should be about doing the best we can to raise happy, mindful, caring human beings. But, for many of us, we worry too much about what others think about how we deal with sticky situations. Having the experiences of this past weekend, have put me in a very thoughtful mode. In reflecting on my sons' behavior, my responses to it, my concerns about how others see me, comments that have been thrown my way, etc., I have devised some advise for myself. Reminders, if you will. Things to keep in mind, when I find myself being judged........or.......judging.

1. We've all been there!: We all want to pretend that we haven't, but we have all felt the heat, head-rush, panic, and embarrassment, of tough parenting situations. We have all been blindsided by unexpected behavior. We have all given ourselves the, "In _________ situation, I will do _________......" pep talk. So, get over it. Stop blaming the parent.

2. The judgment you feel is in your head: We all let our minds run wild with, "I bet she thinks I am a horrible parent!", "No one is going to let my son/daughter play with their kids.", "I'm sure, they are running home to complain about how I handled that situation." In many of these situations, what we believe is being thought/said behind closed doors, is probably far worse than reality. Stop worrying about what others think. Do what's best for you and your kids.

3. The judgement you feel is real: We all do it. We see a tantrum, or a grabby kid, and we think "Why isn't she/he doing this?" It's normal. Really, it's an important part of our development as parents. "Judging" a parenting situation, where you are a bystander with a front row seat, but none of the embarrassment, is the perfect time to re-evaluate your possible responses. Unfortunately, most parents don't use this opportunity to hone their own skills, they use it to belittle the parent who is "screwing it up". Judge the situation, not the parent.

4. We all do what is best for our kids, and us: If I have learned anything, since having two children, it's that there is no manual for being an effective parent. There is no "perfect" game plan. What works for one sibling, doesn't work for the other. So why would we ever think, that what works for one of OUR kids, would work for someone else and theirs??

5. Don't offer advise, unless asked: For the same reason, as #4, offering unsolicited parenting advise is a load of crap. It is a mommy or daddy's way of feeling as though they know what they are doing. Don't do it. It's not helpful. I will be honest. When someone tries to give me unsolicited advise, I instantly recount every one of their parenting "mistakes". If I'm asked, awesome, advice away! Otherwise, parents will see it as pure judgement and will tune you out anyway.

6. Train wrecks are normal: Before becoming a parent, I always thought....."My kids won't act that way!", "I wouldn't let my son/daughter get away with that.", "What are those parents doing?!" In reality, these situations are normal, unavoidable (to a certain extent). Kids learn what appropriate behavior is through parental modeling, shared interactions, and yes, misbehavior. Tantrums are a way for kids to process their feelings, before they have learned how to process them appropriately. The fact that these situations exist, is not a testament to the horrible standards/teachings of the parent, but to the normal development of a child. It is our job as parents to teach the coping, social, emotional skills needed for our babies to grow into productive, reasonable, caring adults, but it is a process, it takes time, it takes trial and error.

7. Making mistakes is part of the process: We have all reflected on a parenting faux pas and thought, "I should have handled it this way, or that way." Good! Try it next time. Stop beating yourself up, for not doing it last time. If you keep trying, eventually, you will find the response that works for you and your child. As I tell my students, the only true mistake, is not learning from them, when they occur.

I will try my hardest to be a reflecting, not judging, parent. To be a comrade, not a teacher. To be here for my friends, without feeling the need to "fix" or "change". I will take pride in my parenting philosophy, not shame in my mistakes. I will not judge others or myself, only support and encourage.

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