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Home / Articles / Columnists / Teaching from the Heart /  Escaping the Judgment Trap
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Thursday, October 4,2012

Escaping the Judgment Trap

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller  
The judgment trap begins with our rush to evaluate. We compare, rate, score, judge and assign value to movies, meat, eggs, music, furniture, cars, people, animals, lefthanded pitchers, horses and members of the opposite sex. We rank television programs, tennis players and lovers. We identify the world’s best-dressed men, determine the Top 25 college basketball teams and choose a Miss Universe. We evaluate our jobs, our co-workers, and ourselves. Nothing it seems escapes the critical, judgmental, evaluative mindset of our culture. We even judge our own children as good and bad, skinny and fat, smart and dumb, and best, better, greatest and wonderful.

Judgment categorizes and limits how we see our children. If you judge your son as dishonest and use language that communicates that belief to him, you increase the chance he will be dishonest in the future. If you tend to see your daughter as clumsy and talk about her as being clumsy, she begins to see herself that way and activates behaviors in line with her new beliefs about herself. In effect, your judgment has made her more clumsy.

So how do you get out of the judgment trap? How do you decrease the likelihood that your children will be snared in your trap and confined by it? Consider the following:

Know that judgment is about you. Your judgment tells more about you than it does about the person being judged. It announces to the world that you are a person who likes and needs to judge.

Eliminate “I was just kidding” from your parent talk repertoire.

A joke is not a joke if it is not a joke. Your kidding was judgment hidden behind thinly veiled sarcasm.

Refuse to play the blame game. Focus your parenting on fixing the situation rather than on fixing blame. Put your attention on finding a solution instead of on finding fault.

Drop labels from your vocabulary. If you label your son uncreative, you are less likely to notice his creativity. If you label your daughter gifted, you are less likely to be accepting of aspects of her that are normal. Leave labels for jelly jars and prescription drugs.

See your children as people in progress. None of us is complete yet. We are all unfinished, moving toward a realization of our potential.

Add the words “yet,” “so far,” and “at this time” to your parent talk. “She is not proficient in long division yet” is more helpful than “She is not proficient in long division.” “At this time she does not play the flute well” is not as final as “She does not play the flute well.”

Stay away from gossip sessions. Most gossip is pure judgment based on insufficient information. Have you ever heard a constructive gossip session? Neither have we. Walk away from gossip.

Eliminate parent talk that describes your child as being that way. She is not silly. She acted in a way that included a lot of giggles. He is not thoughtless. On this occasion he chose a behavior that did not show much prior thought. He is not a liar. He is a person who did not tell the truth this time.

Stop putting yourself down. It encourages your children to do the same. Eliminate “I’m stupid,” “That was dumb,” or “Stupid me!” from your verbal responses. Say instead, “That didn’t turn out as well as I wanted.”

Remember, judgment makes permanent. Do you really want your son to see himself as that way? Do you want your judgment to be what your daughter comes to believe about herself?

The latest judgment you made is not who your child really is. He or she is much more than the narrow way that judgmental thoughts and words indicate. Help your children create the grandest version of who and what they really are. Use the ideas above to step out of the judgment trap and set both them and you free.


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