Observation, not evaluation

This week my mind is on judgement.

Don’t worry: It’s not because I’m judging you or because anyone has been dishing to me. It’s been on my mind since I read chapter two of Parenting Beyond Power. (That’s the really excellent book our current bookclub group is reading. And fair warning: that link is my Amazon Associate one, so I will get a small percentage if you use it to purchase the book.) One of the reasons I love it is because, in addition to sharing information I firmly believe in and wish all adults knew, she also presents topics that I’m already familiar with and gets me to think a little more deeply about them.

For example: judgement.

In one exercise she asks readers to think about a time in their life that they’ve felt judged…and conversely, a time that the reader has judged someone else. (What does it say about me that the latter task was easier than the former…??) I was immediately interested because this is reminiscent of a thinking exercise I often do when I am training someone new to RIE, but I ask them to think about a time they have felt respected and disrespected…so I started journaling, feeling pretty confident I wouldn’t learn anything new…but as I wrote and processed, I actually came to a pretty big ‘ah ha.’ What I realized is that judging people shuts down the conversation.

When I feel judged negatively, I get defensive (and feel small). I don’t want to change; I want to double down…or hide. No big surprises there, right? But what about when I’m positively judged? (And isn’t it interesting that ‘judgement’ automatically has a negative connotation?) I was in the lovely position of only being able to bring to mind a recent, very positive, judgement about myself…and I realized it kind of paralyzed me. I wanted to ask “but why do you think I’ll do a good job with that?” But I didn’t want to ask…what if they realized they were making a mistake?! Or what if they thought I was fishing for more compliments? Nope, just smile and say thank you… that’s what you do, right?

And, as it generally does, my mind shifted to babies and toddlers…what happens when we judge a baby? Well, beyond all of the things I outlined in this 2020 article on the phrase “good job,” it also kind of stops the conversation with babies. But if you can shift your mindset from evaluation to observation, you can still encourage and support and share your excitement with children: simply talk about what they are doing. That will show them that you see them, maybe even that you understand them. That’s the goal with RIE…and as Thich Nhat Hahn says: “understanding is love’s other name.”

I’ll leave you with one other article I dug up from 2020. In it, I encourage myself (and you) to lighten up on the self-judgement, but what I was really happy to rediscover was that the article included a segment from a long ago RIE Conference with two honest to goodness RIE parents of grown children talking about what RIE means to their families. You can watch it here.