I have a lot of strong opinions. Stick around long enough, and you’ll hear me speak my mind on parenting, education, breastfeeding, vaccines, circumcision, politics, and many more things. I will proclaim to anyone who will listen that compulsory school is bad for kids, I definitely think that breast milk is superior to formula,and punishment and rewards are harmful and not necessary when you are connected to your kids.
Every once in awhile, someone will ask me how I can so boldly proclaim these things. “I send my kids to school, and you’re saying school is bad for kids. How dare you judge!” or “I punish and control my kids, and you say that’s a horrible thing to do. How dare you judge!” “You said breast is best. I formula fed. So you think you provided your babies with better nutrition than I provided mine with? How dare you judge!”
No matter what the subject, some think I should never state any absolute beliefs. They get frustrated with me, because they want me to say that what they’re doing is okay. “Why can’t you just say that unschooling works for you, but it’s not the best path for everyone?”
And then they end with what they think is a clincher. “All paths are equal. We’re all good moms.” And they look at me with this look that just defies me to say differently. They have the last word, they think, because in our society, judging is bad.
And then I make them all upset and aghast because I do say differently. I topple their sacred cow when I say this:
I think judging is actually good.
No, all paths are not equal. Some paths are better than others. Some paths are dramatically, 150% better than others. Some paths are so bad that no one should ever be on them. Ever.
And this one really gets people upset. Some parenting is better than others.
Just because some paths are better than others doesn’t mean that some people are better than others. Just that some people are making better choices. There is a huge distinction between saying someone is a bad person and saying that something is a bad practice. We should be able to judge practices without judging the people who adhere to them as bad. Otherwise we risk the danger of being stuck worshipping mainstream practices and giving unquestioning obedience to those whom mainstream society has proclaimed to be experts.
I urge everyone to judge practices and issues. Judge intensely. Judge thoroughly. Judge often. Read all the studies, think all the thoughts, discuss all the angles, listen to your instincts, throw out all pre-conceived notions and all the blind faith in so-called experts and consider everything with an open mind. Learn the difference between your instincts and listening to what has been programmed into your head.
Judge so that you can make the very best decisions for yourself. Because some choices are better than others.
I’m not saying to be unkind to others or yourself. I’m not saying to have no grace when someone is having a hard day.
As a matter of fact, I say this: Be loving, forgiving, and peaceful. Be generous with your compassion. Imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, and if you can’t, be kind anyway. Heap on the love and dole out help and support in spite of each other’s flaws. We all lose our cool sometimes. Parenting is hard, and sometimes we don’t make the best decisions in the moment. No one is perfect, after all. Don’t judge people for their mistakes. But please do judge philosophies. Judge practices. Judge systems.
Love yourself and forgive yourself. But also analyze what went wrong so that next time you can make a better decision. Analyze the way others do things and the thought processes behind why they do things. Analyze your world view and the world views of others.
There are facebook posts that make the rounds from time to time that essentially say that we’re ALL good mothers regardless of what our parenting practices are. Breastmilk or formula? It doesn’t really matter. Patient mom or yeller? It doesn’t really matter. And they’ll go on and on with their lists of really important issues and say that none of it makes a difference in how good of a parent we are.
I call bullshit. Because these things do matter. We should be judging and thinking critically and researching and stretching ourselves and striving to find the best way with all our might.
And if you force a child to go to school against his will, or punish him by taking his personal possessions or hurting him in any way, it’s not just about your rights anymore. You are directly infringing on the rights of another human being, and I sure as heck will judge that. For a child who is given no choice but to be there, school is a day prison. I have some serious issues with institutionalizing children against their will.
Your right to parent how you see fit ends where your child’s rights begin. Do as you please, for yourself, but don’t infringe on his rights. That means that no, you don’t have the right to ground him for not doing his homework. Yes, I’ll judge that. It’s wrong. Your child doesn’t belong to you. He belongs to himself.
And while no one should have the right to force you to breastfeed or cosleep or go out of your way to do nice things for your child, there are choices that are most definitely better. Dramatically better. Judge every practice, and do the best thing.
Love yourself, and don’t stop just because you’re judging your practices. It’s OK to realize you no longer agree with the way you used to do something. We all do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better. But you have to constantly be judging and thinking and questioning in order to know better. And when someone presents you with new information so that you know better, please do better. Don’t be one of these people who get all huffy and say, “Well, I did it this way with my first child, and he turned out fine, so don’t tell me I’m wrong.” Constantly evaluate how you do things, always seeking to do better. Always seek to be kinder, more connected, more patient, more respectful, more authentic, wiser.
Judge. It’s not a bad word.