Practical Parenting: Teaching Effective Judgement
via Thomas C. Maples, Ph.D, Stockton Therapy Network
Good, bad, right, wrong, holy, evil, black, white, night, and day; we are subjected to numerous paradoxes (the capacity we have to make inference and judge lived experience) on a daily basis. However, in recent times, the waters have become muddied, especially in terms of judging what is what, let alone what is right in today’s highly contested view of normalcy.
The issue of judgment has recently become a politically polarized construct where what made sense yesterday no longer makes sense in today’s emerging new world. Our children are taught that judgment, especially if it does not go along with the status quo is somehow bad. They are made to believe that other’s opinions are the only one’s that matter and they are forced into a proverbial box created out of a fear based response of not wanting to be somehow different from the masses. Those that think outside of this box somehow become a target to the group, are referred to in the most negative of light, and called names too negative to use in an article that focuses on the positive aspects of practical parenting. However, this appears to be world and the values our children we are passing on to our children. Good or bad. It’s your choice.
How can a child make sense of the world they will one day inherit, when there is little consensus about values, let alone the civility to work through problems in an non-polarizing manner where one side will try to supersede the others beliefs as being somehow false and without merit? What are we as parent’s to do in teaching our children effective ways to use judgment to better their lives despite the clear programming they receive from the barrage of media and social media exposures they are subjected to en masse before they can ever be legally culpable of making an informed decision?
First, it is imperative for us as parents to take responsibility for our own values and moral compass. In making this argument, I do not side with one versus another side of a value. In fact, I say pick one but fully study and understand the other, it will make your child much stronger of a person than if you shift from side to side because of uninformed judgments we are fed on a daily basis. This is not a lazy man’s or woman’s game, but instead requires work to research your own opinions outside of what Facebook or the television feeds you as a your daily dose of programming. It is from a firm understanding of our self as a person, our likes, dislikes, and our views about what is right versus wrong that our children build the foundation for their own moral reasoning. In many ways, a child is a blank slate. This is especially as it relates to the value based lessons we expose them too. It is through our capacity to learn effective ways of judgment as parents that our children can then learn to implement the same capacity in their own life, thus assuring they have a strong sense of character from which to become successful in the future. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the things you value most and offer that guidance to your children. Not from the perspective that they have to somehow become clones of yourself and live the dreams you have for them, but from the perspective that they have a firm foundation from which to form their own value based decisions and capacity to judge in a manner that keeps them safe and informed of things that can have adverse effect on their lives.
Secondarily, Children learn through emulation of behaviors. By having a firm foundation of your values and moral compass as a parent in place, you can then show through action instead of words what you value most. Children are exposed to a barrage of mixed messages on a daily basis. One example of this is the clear division that exists to between the federal campaign that permeates schools to Just Say No To Drugs vs. the growing (adult) movement to legalize marijuana seen in Colorado and California.
How can a child make sense of whether or not drugs are good or bad when you have two competing sides sending different messages, and both of them governmental agencies? Can anyone say Oxymoron, or better yet Hypocrisy. What is important here, is not to assume one side is somehow more right than the other. Politically, this is where we get into trouble, assuming that one opinion is somehow of a higher moral compass than the other. Remember, the acronym for the word assume is that it makes an “ASS out of U and ME.” However, what is important in this case is that you take a stand and teach your children what you believe is right and what is wrong based upon your value system. If you disagree with drugs, you probably don’t use them, and this is an important construct to teach your children as part of the value lineage you will pass on to them. If you value the use of drugs in your life, your children will probably also, and I guarantee you, they will either likely follow in your footsteps or develop a keen dislike of the behaviors exhibited during their childhood and develop an adverse reaction to drug use. Either way, if you can present your ability to work through both sides of the argument, you are teaching your children an effective skill that will stay with them for the rest of their life, as they will learn to use effective judgment to help them overcome life’s obstacles and form their own informed decissions based upon thought and not one based upon masse psychology.
Third, we cannot confuse the capacity for judgment as being somehow negative or without merit. The capacity to judge is a psychological phenomenon that has merit in its capacity to keep us alive, keep us safe, and help us make both informed and uninformed decisions. The only place where judgment becomes problematic, is when the person who is judging is unconscious of this behavior, and through being unconscious uses it as a means globalize one conclusion to fit all scenarios. This is pre-judicial in essence and leads only to an affirmation of one’s preconceived notions. Globalizing is the shadow of our natural capacity to judge. It indicates an immature psychology that is based primarily upon programming to view all phenomena from a limited source of information. Globalization can only be overcome through making a conscious effort to test all scenarios from a conscious perspective of judgment, which thereby allows us as an individual to challenge the information we are fed as a method of self-growth. Children are not the only ones that grow from this perspective. This also allows us as adults to learn and challenge our own viewpoints and preconcieved notions with new information, and model to our children effective ways to grow as parents and as citizens of a community.
Lastly, it is important that we call a spade a spade. In many ways, we are now programmed to view other’s opinions as right if it is part of the masse psychology we are fed. The voice of the many has now become more important than listening to our own inner voice. This is a mistake of immense proportions. We have hunches, gut reactions, and the hair stands on the back of our neck for a reason. Judgment is made to keep us safe. In making this argument, I am not assuming one versus the other side. As a social scientist, I know that darkness does not exist as a separate construct from light, but merely as an absence of light’s illuminating essence. As spiritual person, I also understand that evil does not exist unto itself, but merely as an absence of a holy essence of life-giving goodness that makes life worth living. Some people call this essence God, some a Higher Power, others Jesus, and still others Buddha or Muhammad. None of them are wrong, and none of them are right in the same token. However, these prophets, the religions, and the spiritual practices they teach all seem to point towards one global construct, the need to live a life that is good, righteous, on our own terms, and to do well by others the same we would expect to do with us. Oh yeah, did I mention the Golden Rule! If you skipped the rest of this article, and learn only of the need to teach the Golden Rule, you will have a successful parenting outcome with your child.
In this article I have offered four ways to teach judgment as a skill for practical parenting. Don’t worry about making mistakes. You will! However, rest assure, that your children will try not to repeat the same mistakes you have made as a parent. They will also try repeat the enjoyable experiences they had with you as a child with their own children. The key is not to be a perfect parent. You will eventually become the great parent you are destined to become if you teach your children effective ways to make decisions based upon personal and family values and the establishment of their own moral compass. It is not about being right or wrong in the sense that we are taught. It is about teaching a skill to make sound decisions based upon a value driven judgments that are truly informed by both sides of the equation. At least from this perspective, work has been done to help you and your children grow from a perspective that takes both side of the equation into account before assuming a position you have been fed en masse. In doing this, your children are allowed to flourish, creating their own oppinions, while you will have successfully navigated the stressful journey of parenthood. What are your thoughts?