Friday, March 27, 2015

Unpopular Opinion: I’m teaching my kids to be judgemental.

It was an innocent Facebook link share of click-baity fluff that finally made me decide to speak up regarding judgement.

Specifically this one. Confession: I didn’t even click through to see the article before I commented on the friend’s post. The title was enough, “16 tattooed senior citizens finally answer this question: 'What will it look like when I’m older?'”

My comment? “Badass. The answer to that question is ALWAYS, 'badass.'”

(I did eventually look at the pics and I was correct in my assumption. Heh.)

And I understand her share of the link was not to stir the pot—not at all, by all means it’s a celebration of choice, with perhaps a dash of thumbing the nose at conservative conventions.

I get it.

But it stayed with me, for lately the theme of judgement has been circling around my wee peabrain, as I’ve been attempting to reconcile my views with the ideology of judgement—or non-judgement as the trend has become.

You hear it all the time: "I don't judge."

In my journeys across the internet of late I’ve heard a lot about nay-saying judgement, specifically condoning parents who judge.

I hate to break it to everyone, but I judge.

I try not to, but I do. Usually when I witness other people’s parenting in public. Quietly, to myself, I will judge another parent, without knowing their story or the trials they face.

I know. I suck.

My judgement scale is a pass-fail. If I see a parent trying to do something, anything—even something unsuccessful—they pass. If I see a parent leave a kid in a car alone?—that parent fails.

Go ahead, judge me harshly for it. I deserve every scowl.

To be clear: I'm not talking about questioning other people's parenting philosophies—I'm talking about the basics: a fact of life is that it's a parent's job to prepare their child to function in adulthood.

It's not a job that comes with training. As long as you're trying, who cares what method you're using? Go ahead, read parenting books purported to hold magical wisdom, or fly by your gut instinct, or co-sleep until your kid hits puberty, or put off potty training until you save the equivalent of their college tuition in toilet paper—it's none of my business.

I don't care what method you choose. At the end of the day if your kid is surviving, you're doing great.

But teaching them no one's going to judge them? Ever?

Oh lordy...

There's a current trend of, "OH, I DON'T JUDGE PEOPLE. OH, JUDGING PEOPLE IS OMFG SO BAD."

And I agree.

Half agree.

Okay, I live by the philosophy of there's a time and a place.

I teach my children to not judge others for matters that aren’t by choice; things such as cultural background, skin colour, sexuality, illness and ability, or socioeconomic levels.

I teach my children to not judge others for matters that are by choice; religious values, expressions of personality such as tattoos, piercings, hairstyle, or clothing choices.

I teach my children that everyone is equal, and that they are no better or worse than anyone else walking this Earth.

However, I teach my kids that the actions of everyone—including their parents, including themselves—are judgement-worthy.

My children know that if someone is bullying them, they’re welcome to walk away and choose to not be that kid’s friend.

No, you need not be everyone's friend unconditionally in this world. Feel free to judge, boys, no one has the right to use you as a doormat. Don't subject yourself to degradation because someone in authority has erroneously labelled your classmates as your friends—they're not. "Friend" is a title that is earned, not distributed willy-nilly as a right.

You can love anyone you want, but it’s never unconditional: the condition is that that person isn’t an asshole, and doesn’t physically or mentally harm you. End of story.

Here's the tricky part: I teach my children they should never judge others unless it’s on their actions, but that they themselves need to anticipate being judged on everything.

On their actions. On their choices. On that mile-long list of things that are out of their control.

But Mom, that's not fair!

Buckle up, boyos: life isn’t fair. And judgement is part of the human condition.

Because society has rules. (Gasp!)

And I fully expect them to anticipate being judged. Because we are all judged in this world, regardless of this “no judging” mantra being thrown around.

Make choices, stand by them, and reap the reward or wrath of others as it falls.

Life is judgement.

And I sure as shit hope other people are judging, too; it’s how society works.

I mean, I send those boys to school and am eventually expecting a report card—if their teacher doesn’t bother grading their work, I’m shit out of luck, aren’t I? And so is their academic career.

Life is judgement. Actions are judged.

Hand something in late to school? Be prepared to have marks docked.

Break a law? Be fined or jailed.

Mismanage your money? Financial penalty.

Be a jerk to someone? Don't expect a date from them.

Say something unpopular? Expect a backlash.

Life is a myriad of choices, a myriad of possible actions to be judged. And it’s going to happen, whether we teach the upcoming generation that it’s going to happen or not.

Back to that click-bait tattooed seniors article, which I understand is a visual rebuttal against those silly questions people inanely ask the tattooed. Why anyone would bother questioning someone else’s choice of body modification by implying they’ll regret it when they’re older is beyond me, unless the underlying reason is to passive aggressively label them as lesser. Obviously the questioner wants to make the tattooed person uncomfortable, otherwise why even mention it?

Being tattooed is a personal choice, one that takes finances, time, and physical pain—the significance behind it some individuals choose to share, but ultimately it’s a private choice.

So yes, I teach my kids that judgement is a complex thing. They are taught to appreciate that each individual brings their own experience and opinion to the table, and understand that disagreement with another's opinion does not lessen that individual.

And I desperately hope they are retaining the lesson that people will make judgements for or against them as individuals based on their actions and efforts, and many other categories out of their control.

And that's okay.

Because it doesn't change my children, but it will change my children's opinion of that individual. It's a lesson in how a person's response says more about them than it does about you—a line my boys hear often.

Because this big world of ours is a marvelous, wondrous place, but one that can also be filled with assholes. (Yep, I said it, and you know it's true.)

Because I want to raise terminal realists. Boys—eventual men—who will recognize the difference between judging someone on their actions and efforts, and knowing when it's a dick move because that individual had no choice in the matter.

To teach my children anything less is a disservice.

1 comment:

  1. One of the trickiest aspects of this that I'm finding is teaching my kids the difference between being judicious and being judgmental--mostly because the line is difficult for me! Can I observe someone's actions and behavior and say, based on what I believe to be right and proper, and say that's wrong--while still holding firm to the belief that that person isn't worth LESS than I am because of that action?

    The next part is knowing--and therefore teaching--WHEN it is appropriate to take action. Really tough stuff. Its easy to say things like "bullying, you intervene and take action when someone is being bullied", or when someone is endangering themselves. But all of THOSE terms and labels are subjective as well. Its thorny, and there really are no clear answers when you drill down to details.

    Kudos to you for engaging in the subject at all! Takes courage.