Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The consequences of being openly judgmental

Because when people feel criticised they won’t hear the good ideas anyway.

Most people don’t like to be criticised, especially if they feel an element of guilt about their actions.

I’ve been on the receiving end of it. One shuts down, emotionally and mentally, and just tries to get the criticiser to shut up, however right they are.

There is an art in offering advice/criticism/suggestions - and it often involves saying nothing at all when one judges that it will not be well received. If people want one's advice, they'll ask for it (and even then the best response might be to say nothing at all)

So many people mistreat their children. They complain about them, they send them to school against their wills. They leave them crying in the night. They complain that they cannot sufficiently control them, as if they were radio cars, not autonomous humans.

But what they want to hear is not “apologise, pick yourself up, strive to do better by yourself and by your child.” Instead they want to hear “you’re doing your best, girl. It’s a really hard thing being a Mum. You have to be cruel to be kind. They’ve got to learn. They all go through it. (S)he'll be fine soon, tears all forgotten”

There’s a part of me screaming “those children have to have someone advocating for them” but maybe it does more harm than good – maybe it sets the mothers on a self-defensive path of following the consistency principle. It certainly gets one seriously flamed. And being flamed is good for getting the adrenilin flowing, but less good at stomach-ulcer-avoidance.

I wish I’d read this:

“To so many parents, stopping a child crying by cuddling it will spoil them and
no research will persuade them otherwise unless they repeatedly see
real-life examples. I wish I could package up all that I’ve been lucky
enough to learn and experience and hand it to other parents, but I
can’t. All parents have to make their journey themselves and I have
to just hope that the small exposure they may have to how we do things, and
to how our children turn out, might add to any other exposure they have to
similar families and might, just might, give them the confidence to trust their

before setting off on yet another doomed crusade on the mainstream boards. It’s right. Small steps, Ellie, small steps. Just live your life, and treat the children you meet yourself as fully human, and let the ripples spread in their own time.

Better to look to learn rather than to convince or teach. Whether others are doing the same or not is their responsibility. If there are spaces where one learns little of value, avoid them. There is an arrogance in going to those of different beliefs and values and saying "here, try mine, they are much better". One will always be convinced of the moral superiority of one's own position, or one wouldn't hold that position, but that does not mean that it is infallibly better, and nor does it mean that explaining it to someone else is going to be helpful to them. Much better to find spaces in which one can challenge and refine one's own ideas than to attempt to teach others.

'Sfunny, I've taken to the idea of unschooling as the ideal for children like a duck to water, but have had this big blind spot in my dealings with other adults...


Anonymous said...

I think it's TCS which has the blind spot in this.

I think people chose to feel offended because it feels better than having to feel regret for their wrong doings.

Taking responsibility feels bad when you are not strong enough or ready enough. Until you know, you can't actually do it.

Also, people don't want to be wrong. It feels bad to be wrong. Why? Because life is short. Because moral mistakes are impossible to fix. Because time wasted is forever. Because it's better to be right. It's better to win. Losers won't make history.

I stick to my idea that you won't learn new moral ideas without feeling bad. Preventing that people feel bad is a mistake.

This doesn't justify coercion of anyone, especially not children, but it justifies offense.

So yay for offense, it allowed me to learn so many things. Carry on.

Brenda said...

I'm rather artless when it comes to offering advice. I don't think a lot of the mums on the board actually want advice; they want unquestioning support, virtual high-fives for how they are "dealing" with their children, and a sense of relief in discovering that they aren't the only ones who (fill in the blank)...

I do admire your efforts in offering a different perspective and approach to the various postings/whingings/oh-woe-is-me rants.

At times, I will throw in my two cents but sometimes I just can't be bothered. I feel that the person posing the question just isn't worthy of the time I would take to write a response. How's that for being judgemental? *S*

I think when people respond negatively, you can take solace from the fact that you may have caused one or some of them to reflect on what they've been doing. I say may, because sometimes I think the responses are just knee-jerk reactions, but someone may just reconsider their approach to their child because of something you have posted.

Don't lose sight of that.

Carlotta said...

I agree with Emma. Since adopting TCS ideas, I have found there are many different ways to help people see what you mean.

For example, with sister and longest friend, I simply told them the entire set of ideas all in a bunch. They were ready for it, and adopted the ideas wholesale immediately.

With others, I have gently chipped away at preconceived ideas, sometimes in an extremely inconspicuous manner, and usually choose to do this because I could be almost certain that if I didn't go about it this way, they would absolutely never speak to me again.

Yup, when it comes to offering one's best ideas, I think there is unquestionably more than one way to manage it and that making people feel bad is definitely not always the best way to go about it.