news item: parenting opinion -VS- judgment

This week I was reading a friend’s blog, and she linked to an amazing article about parenting opinion vs. judgment. I have never read The Happiest Mom before, but when I first read the title of the post in question, I admit that my first instinct was to think, “what the?!”

The day I spanked my daughter in a parking lot: or, parenting opinion -VS- judgment

Yep, color me judgmental. *sigh*

It turns out that this woman’s daughter had run out into a parking lot, and in the heat of the moment, she had spanked her daughter. Immediately afterwards, she felt remorse…but she also felt judged, by the other mother staring at her from across the parking lot.

I have opinions about a lot of things…And as it happens, I have opinions about spanking. I don’t think it works. I think it’s a crummy way to teach kids not to do wrong. I think it can easily cross over the line into abuse. And I think there is almost always a better option.

And yet, I spanked. Just one of the countless ways I’ve fallen short of my personal ideal in pretty much every single area where I hold an opinion.

Which is why I try so hard not to judge people who don’t hold the same opinions as I do. Or those who do hold those same opinions, but who fall short, every day. Because I’d have to judge myself, too.

Well said.

As much sense as it makes, I know first hand that it is hard to not judge people, especially when you have made each of your parenting decisions because you felt it was the BEST option for you and your child. Meagan makes so many great points throughout this post that it is hard for me to pick and choose what to feature here. How about this great explanation of why judgment is probably not the best course of action?

Judgment takes the emphasis off of the behavior and puts it on the person. It says, “Because you do this, or because you believe in that, or because you made a mistake, you are lesser than me.” Judgment leaves no wiggle room for grace, disagreement, true understanding or growth. And judgment kicks people when they’re already down.

Click here to read the full post, and then come back and let us know how you handle interactions with parents who have made different choices than you have.


Do you try to educate others on why you make the choices you do?

Do you prefer to let them ask if they want advice?

Do you think that you can ever truly let each person have his/her own opinion and not judge them for it?


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  1. I think it’s so easy to be judgmental. For me, it started when I was going through primary IF. Some poor pregnant woman was at Starbucks and my first thought was something like, “How DARE she even THINK of drinking espresso or drip coffee while pregnant? She does not DESERVE that GIFT!” The woman could have been drinking a hot chocolate for all I knew. My attitude was ugly and stemmed from jealousy (I’m sure most of you can identify!).

    Being judgmental about parenting decisions, for me, came from a lack of confidence. I was a first time mom, trying my best not to screw up my kid, and I was nervous. Nervous about the enormous responsibility of taking this baby and teaching her to be a productive member of society in 18 short years. In tearing down their choice (inwardly, I never confronted anyone!), I was able to feel better about my own choices for my child.

    Well, I’ve been a parent for 3 years now and am on my second kid. 🙂 I still fight thinking judgmental thoughts (I always will; I think judging is part of being human) but I’m a lot less judgmental than I once was. The most important thing is that a child is loved and their basic needs met. If someone sees the way I do things and wants to know more, I’m more than willing to share. But I seldom, seldom volunteer any “advice”.

  2. This is a good subject. I think it is only human nature to judge and be judged. It has taken me a long time to know when and if to give out advice.

    I especially find this a touchy subject because my son is special needs (Aspergers/ADHD). He is high functioning, so he seems “normal” in a lot of situations, yet he can be quirky and his behavior can seem different sometimes, sometimes his misbehavior seems to not fit his age (13) and I know there are times when I have been the parent judged.

    I have learned through trail and error (mainly my own) how to discipline him, when to let him have free rein and when to not worry about the outward appearances.

    It still happens sometimes that I feel the need to explain myself/him to others. While I don’t like to label him, I find that it helps me to explain his quirks by those medical terms.

    And each child is so different. Things that work for one child–doesn’t work for another. My other child is four and she is a whirlwind that I am still learning to adapt to. Things that worked for him, do not work for her.

    As with all things parenting–it is a learning experience. And while I sometimes still judge–I know to hold my tongue (unless there is something worrying me concerning health/safety)–because I know that I am still learning too.

  3. Trinity says:

    The trouble that I run up against is this: even when you tactfully and respectfully describe your parenting choices and what led you to those choices, the person who parents differently sometimes reads this as an affront to their differing choices/attitudes–as if you’re saying that their choices are somehow inferior simply because they’re different. It’s really frustrating sometimes, so I often find myself NOT educating others about my parenting decisions unless explicitly asked.

    I have a background in social work, which essentially commands you to be judgement-free and to respect that everyone has unique needs and is in their own place. You’re supposed to start from a perspective of, “They’re doing the best they can given their current resources and support system.” I’ve tried so hard to do this in my role of mother, too…but I, too, fall short sometimes. For example, I had a family member recently who visited as an overnight guest. She’s a teen mom with a 6mo. I came into a room to find her baby unattended with a bottle propped by an oversized blanket that was formed around the side of his face. Internally, I FREAKED out, but outwardly confronted her as calmly as I could about how this was not a safe way to feed/parent her baby. I fumed for days (okay, I am still pissed about this) afterwards, and I realized later that this has a lot to do with how she seems to take everything for granted–including this spectacular new role of motherhood that so many of us fight the hard fight for. Long story, but my point is that I think my IF hx plays a role in some of the judgement I sometimes feel–just like a previous commented said.

  4. I’m terrified to do things for fear of how I will be judged. I think that’s because my mom raised me to be afraid of “what would the neighbors think?” This from a woman who tied me to a tree in the backyard because I was a wanderer and I never learned my lesson. It was a great tactic and I learned not to wander without telling my mom where I was going. But I know the neighborhood was up in arms about what my mom did…until the other kids asked my mom if they could be tied to the tree the next day…didn’t really get the point of the punishment.

    I’ve held back from joining mommy groups or doing activities because of how the other mothers might judge me. I know it’s ridiculous, but I’m so insecure, I worry of “what they might think.” (thanks mom)

    It’s hard not to wonder what the situation is. If I was the mom seeing the kid run out it traffic and saw the panicked look on that child’s mother’s face, I would probably understand why she spanked her right then and there. I know I’ve looked at some families and wondered, WTF? They can have kids and I have to struggle? But since I’m not there, I can’t be sure what their deal is.

    I have been known to be judgmental, but I know my fear of being judged sometimes out weighs my placing judgement on people.

    Great article…gives us something to think about

  5. Julie Anita says:

    Such a great article…

    I find the arena of breastfeeding to be a tricky one. It’s SO loaded for so many mothers. Breastfeeding was one of the few things I was really adamant about doing at any cost for the first year at least, enough so that we did a lot of stuff that might seem crazy to some (like finger-feeding and syringe feeding to supplement with milk that I pumped every 3 hours around the clock) to avoid the potential pitfalls like nipple confusion and formula supplementation. It’s hard to be SO pro-breastfeeding and then convince people that I really am not judging them for not breastfeeding! People will read that judgment into things because it’s just so pervasive in our culture for the “mommy wars” to set up a “BFing moms are better than FFing moms” dichotomy (never mind that plenty of moms used both methods to feed their children). Sometimes it’s hard to HAVE an opinion and separate out judgment from it even when the judgment isn’t there.

    That article was so honest and brave. I give Meagan a lot of credit, and I know I’ll be looking at “bad moms” in the parking lot a lot differently now. I remember someone saying once than when you see a mom at her worst in public, the LAST thing you should do is judge her and the best is see if you can help. Worst case scenario, she snaps something like “I don’t NEED your help!”, right? The next mom might not, so it’s still worth a shot. Even someone holding a DOOR for me can make such a difference in the amount of energy getting out of the house with twins takes me, and I appreciate it to probably an unreasonable degree when people do it.

  6. I can’t imagine there are many of us who can stop our opinions entirely from morphing at least a little into judgments. I think what matters is how aware we are of our judgments and what we do with them. I have to put myself in check regularly when it comes to my thoughts about others’ parenting – although for certain I am much less judgmental of other parents now that I am one myself. It’s a hard job, and I can see with my own two kids how different kids can need very different types of parenting based on their temperaments, etc. Who am I to judge what another parent is doing just because it’s different from what I would do with one of my own – they may be doing exactly what their kid needs. I’d always be willing to offer my opinion to friends who seek it, but otherwise keep my mouth shut with strangers. Except for on one issue, which I *frequently* snap at other parents about in public places – when parents let their kids chase animals for “fun” (geese, squirrels, whatever), I politely tell the kid that that’s not nice behavior and they are scaring the animals, and then wag my finger at the parent. I’m *really* anti-animal chasing apparently. 😉

    Great topic!

  7. Wow… opinion vs judgement. First I think this post is awesome. I don’t think I’m so much of a judge or maybe I am – I just never say anything about it. I feel strongly that it’s not in my place to share my contrary opinion about how someone raises their child. Now I confess, I’ve spoken with friends or family in private if I saw something shocking – but I really don’t feel like I should make my opinions / judgement known to the person I feel about.

    I feel like having a child is a very personal thing. How you’ve tried to raise your child is also a very personal decision. I’ve seen spanked children grow up to be great people and I’ve seen spanked children grow up to be little monsters. The same goes for children who weren’t spanked.

    As for breastfeeding, I know there’s the whole (what I call ) crunchy vendetta. If you aren’t running around bare chested in public exclusively breastfeeding your children, you’re somehow a mother who isn’t doing enough! Ok – that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point. Breastfeeding is hard – I can’t judge any woman for not doing it. I am a year into breastfeeding and I never thought I’d make it this far. It was a blur of tears, crying while feeding, nipple shields, getting 1 ounce after 45 minutes of pumping, and the constant fear of the barracuda who wanted to latch onto my teat. There are so many times when I wanted to give up. So can I blame anyone for not doing it – not at all.

    As for your questions:

    Do you try to educate others on why you make the choices you do?

    Not really. I don’t think that my way is better than anyone else’s way. My view on parenting has been colored by my experiences in life. My way is right for me because it matches my experiences. I don’t think it would translate for anyone else. Also – I have only 1 child and she’s a year old – so who am I to say I got it right?

    Do you prefer to let them ask if they want advice?

    I never offer parenting advice unless someone asks me for it. I save my opinions for the times when someone asks me – what did you do – or how did this work for you – or what are your thoughts on….. I firmly believe that unsolicited advice is often damaging for a relationship. I remember a woman who told me that I would have attachment issues with my baby because I chose to carry my 3/4 month old in my carrier on my chest while I was at a BBQ instead of putting her to sleep in the other room. And I quote she said, “If you don’t learn to put her down, you’re going to have problems in the future.” Now I’m not a terribly emotional person, but I wanted to clobber her at that moment. And I still get irked when I think of that interaction. But it ultimately boiled down to me feeling judged for how I wanted to care for my child. That experience is a stark reminder for me – as to why I do not give advice unless someone asks me for my perspective.

    Do you think that you can ever truly let each person have his/her own opinion and not judge them for it?

    I don’t think you can “not” judge someone but I do think you can hold your judgement within. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having crazy opinions or judging people as long as you’re able to keep it completely inside. It’s when those judgements start affecting your behaviors and attitudes towards folk – that causes the issue. We all feel as parents we are probably doing the best job – so it’s only natural that we’d think down on other folk.


  1. […] “caught” spanking her daughter in public got us thinking about the difference between judgment and opinion and those moments where we all fall short as […]

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