Kids need enlightened adult leaders. They need powerful, rational parents who are willing to do the hard work to cut through the bullshit of life. They need moms and dads who are committed to doing what’s right rather than what’s popular, easy, or automatic.
As parents, we have a lot stacked against us. First, most of us have to break the cycle we personally grew up in; the one that fights to trap us in parenting autopilot.
Next, we have to work on defining and refining our parenting philosophy and principles. This is difficult because it’s not familiar to us. We’re trying to birth authenticity out of a womb of mostly inauthentic childhood experiences.
It’s uncomfortable to radically respect children when you were disrespected. It’s uncomfortable to authentically translate children’s behavior and the emotion behind that behavior when your own childhood behavior was mistranslated.
Next, we have to break through the walls we’ve built to protect us from more pain, shame, and guilt. A very common defense mechanism surrounding the topic of spanking is anger. People who were spanked become angry when spanking is labeled as abuse because they’re unwilling to identify their own parents as abusers. If they’ve spanked their own kids, they’re doubly unwilling to see themselves as such.
Defense mechanisms like this are symptoms of autopilot parenting, which is the antithesis of authenticity. You can’t be an authentic parent until these defense mechanisms are overcome.
There is one defense mechanism that I want to address specifically because it’s extremely popular right now: It’s the commandment, “don’t judge!”
This picture went viral on Facebook. It’s a picture of a crying little girl in a shopping cart. The mom has typed up, laminated, and attached a sign to the cart that says, “Please ignore my tantrums. I’m learning that screaming doesn’t work.”
Naturally, authentic parents find this behavior on the part of the parent to be unfortunate. When images like this (presumably taken by the parent), are posted online, it becomes an opportunity for growth.
I went into the comments section and was appalled at the amount of comments applauding the mom. I could spend days recounting specific comments and highlighting the amount of disconnection in our culture, but this article isn’t the place for that.
Here’s the comment (and there are dozens just like it), that I want to discuss.
Melissa starts with the tired argument of “this is why children these days…” which is one of the 12 typical arguments I’ve thoroughly debunked. She then goes on to commit half a dozen more lapses in critical thinking, specifically with regard to: “do anything that works,” “hate you now, thank you later,” “my kids know better than to talk back,” “teaching them respect,” “teaching them you won’t always get your way,” etc.
I will have to address those in a separate article to keep this discussion on track.
The majority of comments like Melissa’s end with a variation of exactly what she said: “…all you moms judging each other…”
Melissa’s logic goes something like this: “You have no right to comment on my parenting. You handle your children and I’ll handle mine.”
Before we go further, it’s important to understand that the concept of “don’t judge” is fundamentally flawed. The human psyche is built to judge everything and everybody at all times. You can’t escape it. It’s an evolutionary mechanism buried deep in a part of the brain you have no control over. It’s particularly useful when it comes to sex and survival.
Just so you can see that I’m not using that fact to dismiss this statement, let’s change the statement a bit. The statement should really be, “don’t be judgmental.”
In other words, don’t express your judgement, along with your agenda. But in certain circumstances, that’s an illegitimate request and is often used as a defense mechanism.
On the surface, “don’t judge” sounds reasonable. If we were talking about this mom’s choice in furniture, the type of car she was buying, or the clothes she chose to wear, this would be a completely legitimate request. Who are we to voice our opinions of her choices?
But in order for “don’t judge” to be a valid statement in a parenting discussion, one must feel–at some level–that children are property. Here’s the legitimate use: “Adults can do whatever they please with their own property (which includes their own body). Nobody has any right to say otherwise.”
The glaring issue here is that children are NOT property. When another human being is involved in a non-voluntary manner, your rights and requests have limitations.
If you want to hit this defenseless person, I’ll most certainly have something to say about that. If you want to forcibly isolate them, I’ll have something to say about that too. If you want to publicly shame them, rage at them, or otherwise abuse them, I’ll have something to say about ALL of that.
The concept of self-defense–which extends to the defense of others whose rights are being violated–legitimizes my judgement and rational intervention.
There’s a hypocrisy component to this as well. Children are completely dependent, defenseless human beings. You are an adult human being who is capable of defending yourself. For you to make the case that you have a right to do these things to children but others don’t have a right to simply judge you for it is so absurd it borders on psychosis.
To really anchor this to something practical, let’s assume a woman was being verbally and physically assaulted by her husband (just a few slaps–you know, to straighten out her behavior).
A minute later, another man approaches the two and intervenes and tells this guy that what he’s doing is wrong and unacceptable. What’s the first thought that goes through your head?
Is it, “I’m so glad this guy was brave enough to stand up for this poor woman?” Or, is it, “How dare this guy judge this man based on this one interaction! That was none of his business! Surely the woman deserved what he was giving her!”
Most people are okay with “judging” spousal abusers (except for the sexism that drives the general support of women assaulting men) because they understand that women are not property.
It’s acceptable to say, “your behavior is not okay” to a womanizer. But for some reason, it’s considered illegitimate to tell a parent, “your behavior is not okay” when they treat their children the same way. That’s considered “judging” and “you’re an asshole for doing that.”
The hypocrisy train doesn’t stop there. Ask yourself this question: “What do authoritarian parents pride themselves in doing all day, every day?”
The answer, of course, is judging their child’s behavior.
It’s tough to make a case for, “don’t judge me” while insisting that you have a right to judge this other person over here. You can practically bathe yourself in the cognitive dissonance.
What “don’t judge” really means is, “How dare you stand up for my child? That’s my property and I’ll do with it as I please.” In the 1950s, men would have had the same reaction to anyone who questioned the physical “punishment” of their wife.
When we extend humanity to children, the insanity of all this becomes obvious. The real tragedy here is society’s general unwillingness to extend humanity to the smallest and weakest among us while insisting that the strong be free from judgement.
So what we’re left with is a crying child in a shopping cart whose emotional needs are clearly being ignored. We have a sign that is a symptom of a larger issue — the systematic dismissal of emotional needs.
This is not debatable, the sign clearly says, “ignore her, she’s learning that screaming doesn’t work.” Here’s the true translation: “My two year old child is apparently incapable of expressing her feelings like a rational adult (duh!) and therefore deserves to be ignored.”
This is passive emotional abuse. The mother is not actively abusing her daughter, but she’s passively doing so. It’s like a doctor standing idly by as a man he’s currently arguing with suffers a heart attack. The doctor is not killing him by doing nothing, but he’s allowing the death by refusing to intervene. Passive aggression vs. active aggression.
I used this picture–rather than a more obvious picture of spanking–so that I could make this side point of the two types of aggression parents use. Being disconnected from the needs of those in your care is called negligence. We deeply understand this as a society when it comes to physical negligence. What we must desperately work to understand as well is the impact of emotional negligence.
But as far as judging is concerned, you just don’t have any ground to stand on with that request in these situations. “Don’t judge” is not only illegitimate, it creates an obstacle to meeting the needs of children. If you truly care about children, you’ll welcome a worldwide dialogue about how they’re treated and accept the full use of anecdotes for analysis.
Just for clarification, I’m not arguing that allowing a child to cry is always emotional negligence. Emotional negligence is born out of the rejection of a crying child, not the act of allowing them to cry. Adopting a philosophy of “ignore tantrums, teach children that crying doesn’t work” represents the systematic rejection of emotional needs.
I’m well aware that the sign is likely there for the mom’s emotional comfort. She *feels* judged and likely embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior. Like many parents, she doesn’t have the tools to address the situation in a healthy manner. I empathize with that. What I don’t empathize with is the second half of the sign; the insisting that she’s trying to teach her daughter a lesson and the finger pointing at her daughter’s behavior. It’s inauthentic. The sign is for the mom. It should read, “I’m embarrassed and lack the skills necessary to deal with this productively. I deeply apologize for the commotion.” That would be authentic. That would be relatable. That would actually inspire empathy from those around her.
“Don’t judge” is also used by parents who simply feel at a loss. They don’t view their child as property, but they also don’t have the tools to meet the emotional needs of their children. These are the parents I’m committed to reaching out to most. Being willing to acknowledge that truth is absolutely respectable. Parents should never be criticized for lacking tools — only for dismissing the needs of their children or violating the rights of their children. My point is that “don’t judge” is directly saying, “don’t attempt to meet the needs of my child or suggest that they have rights” which is why the use of “don’t judge” is so destructively flawed.
It’s funny that Melissa Cruz accused everyone of judging after making the statement, “kids are out of control because their parents FAIL to ‘do good fucking parenting.’” She followed up her own judgementalism with insisting that other parents don’t judge. Interesting, isn’t it?