How To Deal With Judgment As A Positive Parent

Life

“No judgment!” It’s a popular catch-phrase which has become a modern-day expectation. Rooted in political correctness and themes of equality, it’s a well-intentioned ideal but is it realistic? Or does the phrase lack credibility?

It’s a difficult yet important question to answer as it permeates our shared parenting experience, influencing our decisions and tempting us to doubt our instincts. No matter what parenting style we choose to follow we’re faced with judgment; it comes with the territory.

Sharing my unconventional views through Raised Good can be nerve racking with the fear of mass disapproval weighing heavily on my shoulders. To be fair, I couldn’t have chosen a more polarizing topic; the unbelievable effort we pour into our children means we all take parenting extremely personally and defend our choices passionately.

But, do we need to tear others down in order to justify our own decisions?

A survey of 26,000 mothers performed by Today Moms in 2011 revealed 87% of moms judge each other. The truth is we all judge, but why? Because we’re wired for moral judgment. It’s normal and natural. An area of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is dedicated to the emotional aspect of moral judgment. It’s unavoidable.

At it’s core judgment is a survival mechanism, helping us make sense of the world around us. In and of itself it’s healthy to evaluate observations against our personal belief system, bolstering future decision making abilities, creating authenticity and shaping us as individuals. My sense is judgment becomes toxic when it’s made through a lens of ignorance or a vacuum of empathy.

As natural parents we tend to chart our family’s course based on scientific research, evolutionary biology and common sense rather than indiscriminately following the crowd or what society dictates. We need more compelling reasons than “because we’re supposed to” or “because our parents did it and we turned out ok”. We’re an impassioned minority, which is difficult for many people to handle.

I’ve been on the receiving end of hundreds of scathing comments after sharing my writing through mainstream media outlets: I’m no stranger to judgment. When I first read the criticisms I felt like I was being personally attacked; I was angry and upset and for a split second I felt like giving up, not on my philosophy but on being so open about it.

But, then I wrapped my arms around my kind, empathetic and insanely happy son and was immediately reminded why I’m so transparent about my choices; because our children need adults who advocate for their needs. If my words support or inspire one parent wading through a sea of hostility any momentary anxiety I feel is worth it.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

So, how can we cope with judgment in our daily lives as natural parents? For me, it’s starts with knowledge and conviction.

KNOWLEDGE AND CONVICTION

Beginning with a deep understanding of my parenting decisions creates an unshakeable conviction in my choices. It gives me the courage to breastfeed in public, defend my son when adults address him disrespectfully or shrug off embarrassment when playful parenting is the only solution.

It helps me discuss controversial topics calmly (most of the time!), while leaving no room for self doubt to creep in. But I appreciate all parenting paths are unique; if we can find common ground it can bridge any gaps as we navigate parenthood by offering guidance, inspiration and support.

VULNERABILITY AND HONESTY

It sounds like an oxymoron when we’re considering judgment – wouldn’t it be easier to lie about our choices and avoid judgment altogether? Sometimes it’s tempting to do so and in exceptional circumstances it may be the best option, but by and large it’s important to parent in the light, not in the dark.

The fear of judgment can be so overwhelming many of us feel we have no choice but to lie. Sarah Ockwell-Smith of Gentle Parenting conducted a survey of 600 parents, revealing forty six percent lied about sharing their bed with their baby to a doctor, midwife or health visitor for fear of being judged.

I completely understand why parents hide the truth. But if we can find the courage to be honest, practices currently viewed as alternative will be seen as normal and with it, long-held judgments will melt away.

RESILIENCY AND THICK SKIN

Ultimately, if I’m facing judgment which can’t be counterbalanced with logic or empathy the thing that saves me is having thick skin. Find your truth and stick to it: you can’t please everyone and your top priority is your family’s connection and long term emotional well-being.

Try not to worry about what others think, draw strength from the positive influence your parenting is having on your child and do what’s right for you. No trail-blazer has ever walked the path without suffering many wounds along the way. This is the price we must sadly pay for breaking away from the herd, and living life on our own terms.

IS JUDGMENT THE REAL ENEMY?

As the number of parenting choices explodes, alongside the exponential rise of social media, judgment is escalating. But, I wonder if the real issue is a lack of empathy. I wonder if we’re losing our human connection as our world becomes more fragmented, impersonal and competitive.

It’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and lash out against others who make us doubt our choices. When I receive negative comments I often feel like I’m the messenger being shot; that perhaps what I’ve said hit a nerve people would rather ignore, but need to hear.

But, when we let superficial judgment blind us, it throws up impenetrable road blocks, we label others, and healthy conversation stops.

As positive parents we’ve elected the take a road less travelled; the rewards are endless and the price we pay is coping with judgment. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeking to avoid judgement, or worse still, changing our behaviour to fit in with the mainstream.

In those times, I urge you to find your village. Find your tribe of positive parents who can help heal your wounds. That is what I hope to provide for you here and I am so grateful for the strength you give me. If we can be brave enough to open our minds, talk honestly about our choices and extend empathy and support to fellow parents who may follow a different path we’d all benefit.

“It is hard to swim against the current and risk the negative judgments of parenting peers. Yet, some do, and if enough begin to swim upstream, the river may change its flow.” Peter Gray, Free to Learn

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COMMENTS
  • September 09, 2016
    Emily

    I’m so glad that you have this website, Tracy. 🙂 I was hooked as soon as I read your “Simplifying Childhood” post–it just totally made sense and I knew that if the day ever came where I had kids, I would want to raise them similarly to how you’re raising your son. I love your natural and loving approach to everything and I hope I’m like you if I’m ever a mom. Thanks for being my inspiration! 🙂

    • September 10, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Emily! Very kind of you to say and I am so happy you enjoy the site. Makes my day to read comments like yours and keeps me going and more able to ignore any judgment. 🙂 Thanks again and you’ll be a wonderful mum one day xx

      • September 11, 2016
        Emily

        Thanks Tracy! 🙂

  • September 11, 2016
    Kirstin

    Tracy,

    I hate to admit I am one of those parents that when asked if my son sleeps in the bed with me by his pediatrician, I say no. I say no because I do not want to hear all of his it’s not safe blah blah comments. Being a natural parent and going against the grain has been a uphill battle for me. Reading your post makes me smile and feel better about the decisions I’ve made as a positive parent. I have a small support system who shares my view as well which I have been grateful for. Unfortunately my mom is one of the people who doesn’t see agree with the way I parent and that is a struggle. Thank you as always for writing these wonderful posts at the time I need them most, you are my inspiration! 🙂

    • September 12, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      My pleasure Kirstin and I’m so happy it helps to reassure and inspire you 🙂 And don’t worry about it – I tell the truth as often as I can but sometimes I don’t highlight what we do if I know it’s pointless or may upset people – like my grandma for example. I think we all do it sometimes. We don’t have a pediatrician yet but I can imagine it would be a difficult repetitive conversation. It must be hard with your mom not being on board. Like I mentioned in my post I live on the other side of the world to my family, which is so hard sometimes and we miss the support and my little guy misses family, but in many ways its made it easier to do what we feel is best with less explanation. Sounds like you’re doing amazing and thanks again for reading and commenting xx

    • October 12, 2016

      I also said “yes, she sleeps in her crib” when the pediatrician asked where my daughter slept, even though we have bed-shared since 6 months old! I can show studies and evidence that bed-sharing can be as safe or safer than sleeping separately, but that takes so much work and is so stressful.

  • September 17, 2016

    It is amazing how positivity can inspire fear in people. Our society has become so embroiled in negativity that it has almost become a security blanket. Negativity sells -“you need this because it will protect you from this” People don’t know how to react to positivity and so they criticize !

    • September 17, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      SO TRUE Carmel! Negativity sells for sure and it breeds itself. Amazing how much more likely we are to share negative experiences than positive ones. Fear is powerful and so dangerous especially when it’s founded on nothing. Let’s keep spreading positivity xx

  • September 29, 2016

    Thank you, Tracy. This article was just what I needed to read. To remember to not take people’s comments personally, but to realise that these comments come from their own unmet needs.

    • September 30, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      My pleasure Larissa and I’m so happy it resonated with you. Trust your instincts – they’ll never lead you astray. Lovely to meet you! xx

  • September 30, 2016
    Alicia

    Great post. I agree with so many of the things you stand for, its like reading my own thoughts. I’m happy to have your blog as a companion and reference!

    • September 30, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks so much Alicia and I’m very happy you enjoyed it! Lovely to meet you 🙂

  • October 04, 2016
    Joelle

    I think I’ll keep this article somewhere in my favorites, to read again when I’ll have an experience with being judged for the way that I parent… Often I feel it’s also my FEAR of being judged while there was no real judgment. I’m finding my way through this and what helps me also, is looking back at the things I ‘regret’ in parenthood: always things that I did or didn’t do when I was in FEAR! It’s a beautiful path full of wisdom and for me this resonated also: Parenting in the light, not in the dark… It feels like ‘coming out’ sometimes, presenting myself as the sensitive person that I am. I rather hide, but it’s not possible anymore…
    Thanks Tracy for your showing up in the Light!

  • October 21, 2016
    Nicole

    Thank you Tracy for this blog and putting yourself out there for those of us following a like minded parenting path!
    I always feel good, uplifted and empowered in my parenting decisions when I read read your posts.

    • October 24, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you so much Nicole and so happy you enjoy reading. Reading your comments uplifts me so thank you for taking the time 🙂 xx

  • August 09, 2017

    Hi Tracy ~

    I was drawn to this particular post because I too am throwing myself into the deep end of writing and being very open about parenting by connection. I am a parent coach now and love sharing these ideas but I know I will have negative comments come my way too. I wondered how others dealt with this and made my way to your site and here it is! I appreciate this so much. So glad you voice is out there. Carry on! xoxox Kate

    • August 09, 2017
      Tracy Gillett

      Hi Kate,

      Oh thank you SO much! It is hard putting your heart out there and sometimes it gets crushed but overwhelmingly the positive outweighs the negative! Touching people’s lives and having parents say that something they read literally changed their perspective and potentially their relationship with their kids makes it all worth it. My wise designer told me as well that when the haters come out, when you’ve hit a nerve, you know you’re on the right track. I will check out your site now and congrats! Lovely to connect. Tracy xx

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