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Don't Judge (The Game of Parenting)

Ah, the games we play and the rules that drive us. The visibility and competitiveness of such things become painfully present when we become a parent.

I think I parent sooooooo great! And, it’s easy for me to think I know better than others when it comes to parenting. And, you know what? You probably feel you know better than others, too! Let's not just point the finger at me (please). And hell, if we didn’t truly believe what we’re doing is best, we wouldn’t do it amirite?

When it comes to parenting choices, what happens when what we assess is best is different from what another parent thinks is best?

I can tell you that often I fall into judgment, defensiveness and sometimes I even fall into a bit of despair.

A common situation that I, as a mom, hear about is the differing opinions and permissions when it comes to playing video games. When another parent’s choice differs from ours, it is easy for us to jump into righteousness. I make the choices I make, and I trust the choices I make are what is best for my family. Whatever it is you choose, you will believe that your way is the right way, and it may just be! The trap of judgment happens when I assume that what works for my kids will also work for yours and I don’t take the time to understand why you make the choices you do and vice versa. The choices we make come from the beliefs we have habituated, often without conscious thought, we adopt them over time.

Digging down a layer under the belief that our way is the “right way” lives a filter that has been calibrated throughout our short history on this planet. The invisible settings on that filter have been set by the adults, our peers and all the communities that influenced us growing up. These settings come from the conversations, the judgements, and the rules that others have put in place long before we start abiding by them, (or breaking them!).

An example is how families spend holidays. In my house growing up, an unwritten, yet very clear rule, was that on holidays we spend time with extended family. In my early years as a mom raising my boys, abiding by this rule was expected by my family of origin. It took my husband and I some years to create meaningful rules that worked for us. There were difficult conversations with extended family, all sorts of guilt and doubt, and after a few years of being clear about what is meaningful for our family, we made it through the discomfort and stayed connected and conscious with what produced meaning for us.

I am not claiming this is easy, read “there were difficult conversations” and that it took “some years” for us to get there. And, eventually we came up with our “right way”. By my family of origin’s definition, being together with extended family was their “right way”. Yet both are different.

How does one navigate this?

The antidote to righteousness is curiosity. Curiosity brings questions like:

What matters to me now? And

What am I committed to?

These come from the Generative Discourse taught at The Institute for Generative Leadership.

I am all too familiar with the fuel that righteousness feeds. It is intoxicating and potent. It is very convenient to default into the strong emotion that accompanies righteousness.

Cue defensiveness, if you need help with this one: think of a time when someone accused you of being distracted. It can be easy to get defensive and justify why you were distracted. And, when there is enough practice, it can be just as easy to listen, ask questions, and learn from it by asking:

What would need to be different for me to show up fully present and available?

Defensiveness happens when people question how I parent. I become protective and defensive when others question or comment on my parenting choices.

Please feel free to take the questions here to your home, work, or coaching clients. Some questions to start examining beliefs and the games that can play us:

What areas do you fall into defensiveness most often?

Are the rules driving your defensiveness driven by outdated or unexamined beliefs?

What game are you playing?

Is it winnable (if so, to whom?)

Enjoy the reflection, and do let me know:

What are you recognizing are some beliefs driving you?


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