No good deed goes unpunished. – Clare Boothe Luce
Both science and experience prove that it is harder to make good decisions when we feel judged by those around us. And it’s likely that no group of people feels more judged more often than parents! Have you ever bought your child a toy and been told that you’re spoiling your kids? On the other hand, have you ever said, “No, you can’t have that toy today” only to have your child burst into a tantrum? How did you feel, then, with your little one in a puddle on the Toy’s R’ Us floor? Bad, I’d imagine. Judged, probably.
Our children’s responses sometimes make us look careless or cruel. Because of this, parents sometimes choose not to guide or discipline their children the way they think would be best. We all give the toy to avoid the tantrum, sometimes. Often, acquiescing to their demands is in line with our values; sometimes it isn’t and may cause problems in the future.
As parents, it is our responsibility to make the best decisions for our children. The good news is that responsibility demands that we make hard decisions. These decisions get a lot easier when we learn how to unhook ourselves from unreasonable self-criticism and the unfair judgements of others.
Goodge: To Penalize others for Good Behaviour
Frequently we mistake the best attempts of others as being bad or careless behaviour. Often we may feel judged even when we are doing our best. Since this causes so much damage, I felt it deserved a word of it’s own.
Good + Judge = Goodge
Goodge (verb): To judge a person because you mistakenly feel their actions are foolish, lazy, or cruel.
Example: “The mother felt goodged by the sales clerk because her child was screaming for a chocolate bar.”
Wise People Goodge, too
In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells this powerful story of being on a subway with unruly children who were, “yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers” (p. 31).
When Mr. Covey shared his displeasure with the man’s lack of parenting, the overwhelmed father surprised him by saying, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago.”
No wonder the man was in a fog! No wonder the kids were acting up! He had just lost his wife and they had just lost their mother. Steven Covey writes, “Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? […] My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behaviour; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely” (ibid).
I think “Goodged” describes the first part of Mr. Covey’s first impression quite well. He judged the father without knowing the circumstances around this family’s behaviour. The father wasn’t being a bad father and his children weren’t being brats, they simply were doing the best they could on an awful day. Once Steven Covey connected with the father, he was able to stop goodging him and became curious and compassionate.
“How does it feeeeeeel?” – Bob Dylan
Has that happened to you recently? Has someone started of judging you only to become curious and compassionate once you’ve helped them understand your situation?
On the other hand, have you judged someone, but realized upon learning more that they deserved kindness, compassion, and curiosity instead of judgment?
How does it feel when goodgementaless transforms into compassion?
We’re all the Man on the Train (or his Kids), Sometimes
Lots of parents I talk with feel goodged from time-to-time, and often people worry quite a lot about what their neighbours, daycare teachers, family, and even absolute strangers’ judgements of them. I know I do! It seems like my child only acts up when we are at Sobeys or when we are outside in our yard and the whole neighbourhood can hear us.
Internally, I do my best to listen to that part of me that worries about being judged (or googed) without letting these feelings undermine my responsive engagement with my child.
Your Moment of Zen
Assumptions are doors, closed doors, that block vision; awareness is a window that allows you to experience reality with clarity. A blizzard looks a lot different to someone on the inside looking out than to someone locked out, looking in!
When our children our tantruming we need to stay sane and clear so the blizzard they cause doesn’t knock out the light of our good judgement and care. But we must also never lock the door on them! (Unless you literally need to go pee and they won’t leave you alone!) I believe that both judging and the fear of being judged leads to a lot of locked doors.
When we assume other people are judging us, our fear of being judged can become a locked door blocking us from teaching and enacting our values (honesty, compassion, self-discipline, curiosity, etc.) with our children. If need be, lock the door against the judging world so you can engage unhindered with your child.
Way to Hold the Line!
Luckily we’re often wrong the other way too! We often feel judged when there’s no judgement. Our kid is screaming at Toys R’ Us and the other parents think, “Man, I’ve been there, too! – Way To Go!”
In fact, I’d bet you feel empathy for people all the time, and that others feel empathy for you, too! Or that, like the man on the train, people start googing you, only to become empathic as they learn more about your story.
Because You’re Mine, Son, I Walk the Line
As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine, I walk the line – Johnny Cash
I keep an eye on my heart. I keep my eye on my son. I keep my eye on my wife. I keep my eye on those whom I love and who I care for. If a stranger wants to think I’m a bad-dad, that’s ok. It’s not for them I walk the line.
Ultimately, I walk the line for my values and the well being of my family. Because of that, I’ve decided to keep on parenting the way that my wife and I agree we should – even when I worry that my words or actions will be misunderstood by others. And, because I continue to have blind-spots and places to grow, I try to remain open to feedback from others so that if trusted people in my life (my spouse, family, clients, friends, and etc.) share their observations with me, I can hear them with an open, non-defensive, mind.
All of this requires that I do my best not to goodge others and be mindful, curious, and compassionate instead.