Can We All Stop With the “Don’t Judge” Nonsense?

Kids need enlightened adult leaders. They need powerful, rational parents who are willing to do the hard work to cut through the bullshit of life. They need moms and dads who are committed to doing what’s right rather than what’s popular, easy, or automatic.

As parents, we have a lot stacked against us. First, most of us have to break the cycle we personally grew up in; the one that fights to trap us in parenting autopilot.

Next, we have to work on defining and refining our parenting philosophy and principles. This is difficult because it’s not familiar to us. We’re trying to birth authenticity out of a womb of mostly inauthentic childhood experiences.

It’s uncomfortable to radically respect children when you were disrespected. It’s uncomfortable to authentically translate children’s behavior and the emotion behind that behavior when your own childhood behavior was mistranslated.

Next, we have to break through the walls we’ve built to protect us from more pain, shame, and guilt. A very common defense mechanism surrounding the topic of spanking is anger. People who were spanked become angry when spanking is labeled as abuse because they’re unwilling to identify their own parents as abusers. If they’ve spanked their own kids, they’re doubly unwilling to see themselves as such.

Defense mechanisms like this are symptoms of autopilot parenting, which is the antithesis of authenticity. You can’t be an authentic parent until these defense mechanisms are overcome.

There is one defense mechanism that I want to address specifically because it’s extremely popular right now: It’s the commandment, “don’t judge!”

“Don’t Judge.”

cryingThis picture went viral on Facebook. It’s a picture of a crying little girl in a shopping cart. The mom has typed up, laminated, and attached a sign to the cart that says, “Please ignore my tantrums. I’m learning that screaming doesn’t work.”

Naturally, authentic parents find this behavior on the part of the parent to be unfortunate. When images like this (presumably taken by the parent), are posted online, it becomes an opportunity for growth.

I went into the comments section and was appalled at the amount of comments applauding the mom. I could spend days recounting specific comments and highlighting the amount of disconnection in our culture, but this article isn’t the place for that.

Here’s the comment (and there are dozens just like it), that I want to discuss.

cruz

Melissa starts with the tired argument of “this is why children these days…” which is one of the 12 typical arguments I’ve thoroughly debunked. She then goes on to commit half a dozen more lapses in critical thinking, specifically with regard to: “do anything that works,” “hate you now, thank you later,” “my kids know better than to talk back,” “teaching them respect,” “teaching them you won’t always get your way,” etc.

I will have to address those in a separate article to keep this discussion on track.

The majority of comments like Melissa’s end with a variation of exactly what she said: “…all you moms judging each other…”

Melissa’s logic goes something like this: “You have no right to comment on my parenting. You handle your children and I’ll handle mine.”

Before we go further, it’s important to understand that the concept of “don’t judge” is fundamentally flawed. The human psyche is built to judge everything and everybody at all times. You can’t escape it. It’s an evolutionary mechanism buried deep in a part of the brain you have no control over. It’s particularly useful when it comes to sex and survival.

Just so you can see that I’m not using that fact to dismiss this statement, let’s change the statement a bit. The statement should really be, “don’t be judgmental.”

In other words, don’t express your judgement, along with your agenda. But in certain circumstances, that’s an illegitimate request and is often used as a defense mechanism.

On the surface, “don’t judge” sounds reasonable. If we were talking about this mom’s choice in furniture, the type of car she was buying, or the clothes she chose to wear, this would be a completely legitimate request. Who are we to voice our opinions of her choices?

But in order for “don’t judge” to be a valid statement in a parenting discussion, one must feel–at some level–that children are property. Here’s the legitimate use: “Adults can do whatever they please with their own property (which includes their own body). Nobody has any right to say otherwise.”

Perfectly acceptable.

The glaring issue here is that children are NOT property. When another human being is involved in a non-voluntary manner, your rights and requests have limitations.

If you want to hit this defenseless person, I’ll most certainly have something to say about that. If you want to forcibly isolate them, I’ll have something to say about that too. If you want to publicly shame them, rage at them, or otherwise abuse them, I’ll have something to say about ALL of that.

The concept of self-defense–which extends to the defense of others whose rights are being violated–legitimizes my judgement and rational intervention.

There’s a hypocrisy component to this as well. Children are completely dependent, defenseless human beings. You are an adult human being who is capable of defending yourself. For you to make the case that you have a right to do these things to children but others don’t have a right to simply judge you for it is so absurd it borders on psychosis.

To really anchor this to something practical, let’s assume a woman was being verbally and physically assaulted by her husband (just a few slaps–you know, to straighten out her behavior).

A minute later, another man approaches the two and intervenes and tells this guy that what he’s doing is wrong and unacceptable. What’s the first thought that goes through your head?

Is it, “I’m so glad this guy was brave enough to stand up for this poor woman?” Or, is it, “How dare this guy judge this man based on this one interaction! That was none of his business! Surely the woman deserved what he was giving her!”

Most people are okay with “judging” spousal abusers (except for the sexism that drives the general support of women assaulting men) because they understand that women are not property.

It’s acceptable to say, “your behavior is not okay” to a womanizer. But for some reason, it’s considered illegitimate to tell a parent, “your behavior is not okay” when they treat their children the same way. That’s considered “judging” and “you’re an asshole for doing that.”

The hypocrisy train doesn’t stop there. Ask yourself this question: “What do authoritarian parents pride themselves in doing all day, every day?”

The answer, of course, is judging their child’s behavior.

It’s tough to make a case for, “don’t judge me” while insisting that you have a right to judge this other person over here. You can practically bathe yourself in the cognitive dissonance.

What “don’t judge” really means is, “How dare you stand up for my child? That’s my property and I’ll do with it as I please.” In the 1950s, men would have had the same reaction to anyone who questioned the physical “punishment” of their wife.

When we extend humanity to children, the insanity of all this becomes obvious. The real tragedy here is society’s general unwillingness to extend humanity to the smallest and weakest among us while insisting that the strong be free from judgement.

So what we’re left with is a crying child in a shopping cart whose emotional needs are clearly being ignored. We have a sign that is a symptom of a larger issue — the systematic dismissal of emotional needs.

This is not debatable, the sign clearly says, “ignore her, she’s learning that screaming doesn’t work.” Here’s the true translation: “My two year old child is apparently incapable of expressing her feelings like a rational adult (duh!) and therefore deserves to be ignored.”

This is passive emotional abuse. The mother is not actively abusing her daughter, but she’s passively doing so. It’s like a doctor standing idly by as a man he’s currently arguing with suffers a heart attack. The doctor is not killing him by doing nothing, but he’s allowing the death by refusing to intervene. Passive aggression vs. active aggression.

I used this picture–rather than a more obvious picture of spanking–so that I could make this side point of the two types of aggression parents use. Being disconnected from the needs of those in your care is called negligence. We deeply understand this as a society when it comes to physical negligence. What we must desperately work to understand as well is the impact of emotional negligence.

But as far as judging is concerned, you just don’t have any ground to stand on with that request in these situations. “Don’t judge” is not only illegitimate, it creates an obstacle to meeting the needs of children. If you truly care about children, you’ll welcome a worldwide dialogue about how they’re treated and accept the full use of anecdotes for analysis.

Side notes…

Just for clarification, I’m not arguing that allowing a child to cry is always emotional negligence. Emotional negligence is born out of the rejection of a crying child, not the act of allowing them to cry. Adopting a philosophy of “ignore tantrums, teach children that crying doesn’t work” represents the systematic rejection of emotional needs.

I’m well aware that the sign is likely there for the mom’s emotional comfort. She *feels* judged and likely embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior. Like many parents, she doesn’t have the tools to address the situation in a healthy manner. I empathize with that. What I don’t empathize with is the second half of the sign; the insisting that she’s trying to teach her daughter a lesson and the finger pointing at her daughter’s behavior. It’s inauthentic. The sign is for the mom. It should read, “I’m embarrassed and lack the skills necessary to deal with this productively. I deeply apologize for the commotion.” That would be authentic. That would be relatable. That would actually inspire empathy from those around her.

“Don’t judge” is also used by parents who simply feel at a loss. They don’t view their child as property, but they also don’t have the tools to meet the emotional needs of their children. These are the parents I’m committed to reaching out to most. Being willing to acknowledge that truth is absolutely respectable. Parents should never be criticized for lacking tools — only for dismissing the needs of their children or violating the rights of their children. My point is that “don’t judge” is directly saying, “don’t attempt to meet the needs of my child or suggest that they have rights” which is why the use of “don’t judge” is so destructively flawed.

It’s funny that Melissa Cruz accused everyone of judging after making the statement, “kids are out of control because their parents FAIL to ‘do good fucking parenting.'” She followed up her own judgementalism with insisting that other parents don’t judge. Interesting, isn’t it?

80 comments
  • CHRISTINE LEWIS

    Hi Kevin
    My husband came across your very first reboot your kids pod cast and I was I really liked it. I listened to it three days in a row to try and imbed some of the thinking in my head.

    But I’m being really honest here. I’m a bit tired of the articles of specific parents that have made poor choices. The naming and shaming that goes on the internet is only a grown up version of the shaming and humiliation you state some parents use to control their children’s behaviour.

    Please go back to posting more articles like the first one where you talk about generally about children’s behaviours that frustrate parents and better ways in which to handle or think about them or general themes of thinking. People who sign up for your posts, I imagine have done so because they already agree with your style of parenting or are looking for alternative ways of parenting to the ones that they are using and are maybe not working for them.

    Please don’t become troll bait

    • Kevin Geary

      Hi Christine,

      The truth is that shame and guilt are weaponized and directed at peaceful parents *all the time* in an attempt to make them question their choices and beliefs. Do you see how these articles can empower peaceful parents to dismiss that weaponized shame and guilt? This *is not* about shaming and guilting mainstream parents, it’s about pointing out their hypocrisy so their attempts to shame and guilt others (the way they shame and guilt their kids) come up short.

      If you are new to peaceful parenting, you may not have experienced this yet. But you will.

      Does that make sense?

      • barefootOCMama

        Wow, condescend much. I am not at all new to peaceful parenting and I have not experienced that. Perhaps it is because I attempt to treat ALL human beings with respect for their learning journey. Kids are not the only ones being to controlled and manipulated into “behaving”.

        You are saying that because peaceful parents are shamed you are shaming mainstream parents so we will feel better? No human needs shaming on the internet and fingerpointing in public, many coukd use some love and understanfing to open their hearts to a different way of relating.

        Why not use the stories and hide the names? Or even better use anecdotes from parents who recognize their growth and are willing to own their past? Parents who are anywhere along the peaceful path will resonate with that better in my opinion.

        • Kevin Geary

          The fact that you took my comment as condescending is symptomatic of your own defensiveness. There was no condescension at all in my comment, period. You’re choosing to see what you’re feeling inside to justify how you feel.

          You are saying that because peaceful parents are shamed you are shaming mainstream parents so we will feel better?

          Is that what I said? You might want to read the comment again.

          • barefootOCMama

            sympotomatic of my own defensiveness?… LOL I have nothing to defend… i felt for the reader who was clearly a fan until you blasted her constructive criticism… you are practically a troll of your own blog, it’s almost funny…

            OK. Proof. Pudding. Take care and I wish you peace and health. No need to read your blog anymore though…

          • Alex Allman

            Hey Kevin, a little tip here from a fellow blogger– When you offend someone with a post that you know in your heart is not intended for offense, and you feel you’ve got an important lesson… don’t argue and make wrong in your own comments section.

            The jiu-jitsu move here is let your knee-jerk anger at the accusation cool, and then respond in the most powerfully loving way possible to get through the other person’s defenses, and hopefully create an object lesson.

            I like your post, I think it’s important, AND you definitely shamed this woman, so you need to own that and either address it with an apology for that aspect of the article, or explain the necessity as a more loving act than the alternative.

            Overwhelm your reader/commenter with kindness and empathy. Understand why they take offense and help them understand their anger too if it’s appropriate. Teach by example instead of by argument.

            Your readers, just like a child in your care, learn more through what they “catch you doing,” than through what you tell them.

            You’re welcome.

        • Esmeralda

          “I attempt to treat ALL human beings with respect for their learning journey…”

          I am with you.

          We can help children the most by helping their parents with love and compassion.

          Best regards!

    • Dana

      Shame is a powerful tool to use against genuinely bad behavior. I’m not removing it from my arsenal just because it makes you feel yucky. It’s like the difference between shooting up a classroom, and shooting someone who just tried to rape and strangle you. The gun use itself isn’t the problem per se; it’s all in the context. Same for shaming. It is not always bad. If it’s all I can use to make someone stop doing something demonstrably harmful then you better bet I will use it.

      In fact it blows my mind to think how much this culture would change for the better if we quit bullying the weak and helpless and started lashing out more against the powerful who abuse that power. Not that they should have so much in the first place but if we’re going to put up with that much cultural power differential, we had damned well better hold those people to a higher standard too.

        • Debbie

          The difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is “I have done something bad.” Shame is “I am bad.” Very different messaging. Guilt has a place, shame does not. Very interesting article. Thanks. I’m a Mom whose kids are young adults now. There are sure things I would do differently now. The more we know, the better we do.

      • barefootOCMama

        So, I have now spent some more time reading your posts and comments. You are a good writer in my opinion, I enjoy your posts… your comments tend to be a bit combative and authoritarian, even defensive. This is your blog of course, so it’s your pergogative (and maybe you are working to provide the edge and drama that often makes posts like these go viral, no judgment – LOL – that is a smart blogging tactic, IMHO) – but I digress. I am only mentioning it because you do seem to want honest, authentic feedback. So there it is. It is refreshing to read these sorts of posts from men. I honor you and your journey, I admire you efforts and success at creating a place for these discussions. Now back to my regularly scheduled day of enjoying and guiding these four wondeful human beings who I will never shame in public (not even when they are adults). Namaste!

        • Kevin Geary

          My comments are direct. They’re not combative or authoritarian. Unfortunately, the internet has little context, no facial expression, and no tone. But just because someone doesn’t sugar coat things to make up for that doesn’t mean they’re defensive or authoritarian.

          • Laura

            I am loving the answers you are giving, very very direct and clear, non offending. AS you said, there are no tones on the internet, none other than what the reader wants to add based on their own feelings. You may be triggering something on some people that decide that “you sound bla bla”. It takes a long time to realize that. Really good way you are pointing it out. Loving your blog, you just earned a new readed thanks to your non-nonsense approach. Apologies for the grammar mistakes, i am a non english native speaker. Greettings from a Spaniard in Sweden.

    • Mayra

      I totally understand why although we shouldn’t judge, this situation is very hard not to judge. I’m not a parenting expert and not the the best parent either, but I believe there are better ways to meet your children’s needs to prevent their tantrum. They’re just communicating, right? And if this is their way of communicating, maybe there is a deeper more serious issue. I’m not sure.

      However, I get why this article and title is written about this one situation. My children are not the best and maybe I could do a better job if my only focus was being a mother, nothing else! I try so hard to be a mom aling with my other responsibilities. Being a mom -mom, for lack of better words, isn’t so innate and natural to me like it seems to be to other parents! And, it’s not enough. We are far from this situation but still not good enough! I feel judged all the time!

      I read this article, because it said we should stop using the “don’t judge” phrase and it spoke to me! I really do believe that until you have stepped into my life and my shoes, do not judge my parenting skills! Yes, I chose my life and my circumstances, my fault! But, yes, do not judge people who are doing their best in their situation because a lot of people have it better or worse. Some have nannys or husbands to help them at the end of the day, some are a mother who have a few children with out help from anyone, because maybe, their supporting spouse is in the military and don’t have that extra help to keep it together for several months at a time! This may be unimportant to many but it’s just a different view of things.

  • sally

    Thankyou for writing this article.
    I agree with your sentiments.
    Humans do judge. We are meant to judge. We use judgement to help us make the right choices and to navigate our way through this (sometimes messy and confusing) society.

    I am an advocate for childrens rights. They need more people to stand up and speak for them.

    Thank you again.

  • Teal

    amem amen amen!!! I’ve been thinking about this so much lately. I believe that to be silent about my judgments of someone mistreating another human (their children) would be unjust. But parents get soooooo defensive of their right to parent how they want. It’s such a fine line and I haven’t figured it out yet.

    That said, I am so so so grateful we have a strong,secure attachment with our little girl and have never, ever purposely mistreated her. Gentleness, loving kindness for the win!

    http://www.tealtomato.com

  • Patricia

    This story to me is too easy to dissect and furthermore the misguided parent literally invited judgment by placing a publicly viewed sign with her crying child. “Don’t judge a parenting style” has become a very common mantra in today’s discussion comments throughout various sites and topics related to parenting, from spanking to public breastfeeding.

    One raging topic at present is the idea of mandatory vaccinations. Like mental or physical abuse and neglect, the idea of withholding vaccinations has created hypocricism for the parents who believe that judgment is legitimate. The rational being that society at large is at risk therefore judgment is sound.

    A mentally or physically abused person could also be thought of as being a risk.

    I am not really sure how to view this. I do believe that vaccine judging is an example of profound hypocrisy within “mainstream parenting”. So I ask, where does your judgement start and stop?

    • Kari

      I completely agree with this. While I agree with the author that judgement is important and even necessary, the term “rational intervention” makes me nervous because it is open to vague interpretation. While it seems completely rational to intervene in a complex situation as the one noted above, it may also seem completely rational to others to intervene in the medical care of someone else’s children, such as forcing vaccines or chemo when the parent wishes to not go that route. It might seem rational to intervene and stop parents from homeschooling based on their ideas of how damaging it could be to children.

      You see where the lines here could get fuzzy. I completely agree with the underlying message in this article but I’m not on board with “rational intervention”. Spread awareness, yes. Discuss, yes. Encourage, teach, share studies on the benefits of peaceful parenting. Voice your opinion, sure.

      Perhaps I misunderstood the term.

      • Kevin Geary

        such as forcing vaccines or chemo when the parent wishes to not go that route.

        Creating aggression where there currently was none cannot be considered “rational intervention.”

  • Ruth Nussbsumer

    I have my own views on parenting, but at this time I will keep them to myself. I will say this though: I’ve only been a parent for 7 weeks, and already I am feeling bombarded by ‘parenting’ articles and blogs telling people how they should parent and using strong language to shame parents who may disagree. This makes me overwhelmingly sad. Once men and women lived in tribes or communities that offered real and practical support to each other (including women who would breastfeed children who could not be breastfed by their own mother). Now we live in a society that priorities judgment of parenting over offering real support. How many of the people who have offered their opinion of this mother’s parenting would offer to babysit while she dud her grocery shopping, I’d given the chance? Parenting is hard work. Let’s not pretend it’s not. You speak of parents who seem disconnected from their children, but we have also disconnected from other parents. How about we offer some encouragement and practical support to each other, rather than useless criticisms and opinions.

    • Kevin Geary

      Ruth,

      Our society is currently waging a war on children. They’re a voiceless group. There are many who wish to give them a voice against the herd that seeks to do whatever it takes to protect the status quo.

      If you don’t like what you read on the internet, you can stop using the internet. Or you can stop clicking. It’s unproductive to try to silence the world around you. Rather, you might consider starting a group in your area full of moms and dads who can provide the support you’re looking for.

      Or, you can find the value that lies in the articles here and elsewhere and use those to better your parenting.

      ANYTHING will be far more productive for both you and your children than spending your energy trying to silence the rest of the world.

      • Ruth Nussbaumer

        Wow, Kevin, you are certainly quick to jump on the defensive! I was not silencing anybody. My point was simply that it would be nice to see parents giving a bit more support rather than criticism. I think it’s wonderful that the internet can create networks for parents to support and encourage one another. I think it’s sad when it’s used to bring judgement and shame instead. I’ve seen horrible comments written towards mothers, including that “they should die”. I wonder if you think that kind of judgement is warranted on any type of online forum? I know parenting is hard enough as it is without being made to feel inadequate simply because I don’t agree with everyone’s opinions on parenting. (And everyone’s views are different, so we really can’t win).

        But you have proved my point about the unwarranted judgement that people place on others simply for disagreeing (or offering a different perspective), by throwing out assumptions and accusations. And you have also done exactly what you accused me of by trying to silence my opinion, telling me to avoid the internet “if I don’t like it”.

        The truth is, I advocate for those voiceless children you speak of. But I am very much aware that words, and particularly mean words, do nothing to help them…particularly when it makes decent parents feel inadequate. The only people who like these kinds of posts are people who agree with your point of view, so you’re actually doing nothing to change what you would deem bad parenting. Words mean nothing unless they are backed up with actions. So if you (and others) are truly interested in helping voiceless children, equip and support the people who care for them– the parents.

        And just to be clear, I am already a part of several mothers groups. They offer wonderful support. I just wish that mothers (and fathers) who do not have that kind of support in the real world, may have a chance of finding it on the internet.

        • Kevin Geary

          I think it’s sad when it’s used to bring judgement and shame instead. I’ve seen horrible comments written towards mothers, including that “they should die”. I wonder if you think that kind of judgement is warranted on any type of online forum?

          Did you even read the article? Because you haven’t addressed a *single point* from it. Rather, you’ve chosen to give an out of context opinion. No, I don’t think people should tell other people they should die. But I’m also not responsible for the internet. I’m responsible for my thoughts and writing and that’s it.

          You’re welcome to address MY writing. Please don’t bring the behavior of the entire internet to my blog along with your own judgementalism about it (yes, you’re doing what you claim we shouldn’t be doing).

          I know parenting is hard enough as it is without being made to feel inadequate simply because I don’t agree with everyone’s opinions on parenting.

          I didn’t make anyone feel inadequate. I made factual arguments about the statement, “don’t judge.”

          (And everyone’s views are different, so we really can’t win).

          We CAN win. You can’t just “agree to disagree” on some things. Parents hitting kids is unacceptable. I’ve outlined many unacceptable things, backed by examples that show the clear hypocrisy.

          I wholly reject this “agree to disagree” nonsense. If my neighbor wants to own a black man as a slave, we’re not going to “agree to disagree” about that. It’s ludicrous.

          But you have proved my point about the unwarranted judgement that people place on others simply for disagreeing (or offering a different perspective), by throwing out assumptions and accusations. And you have also done exactly what you accused me of by trying to silence my opinion, telling me to avoid the internet “if I don’t like it”.

          Follow your behavior: You came to an article that talks about how the statement “don’t judge” is unacceptable at times. You JUDGED the article, wrote a comment JUDGING the rest of the internet, while saying, DON’T JUDGE.

          That’s absurd.

          The truth is, I advocate for those voiceless children you speak of. But I am very much aware that words, and particularly mean words, do nothing to help them…particularly when it makes decent parents feel inadequate. The only people who like these kinds of posts are people who agree with your point of view, so you’re actually doing nothing to change what you would deem bad parenting.

          This isn’t an article about changing bad parenting! This is an article about not silencing people who stand up for the voice of children with the phrase “don’t judge.” And I didn’t make anyone feel inadequate. My words were not “mean” they were “true.”

          If the truth hurts you, that’s more about you than it is about me. And for the future, if you want to comment on this blog, please make an actual argument. You didn’t challenge any specific thing in the article, you simply behaved as if this is your personal blog to share your thoughts. Your welcome to start a blog to share your thoughts. The comments section is for the discussion of the article at hand.

          • Ruth Nussbaumer

            Perhaps this is where miscommunication occurred: I was not originally commenting in response to your blog post specifically (and yes, I did read it). I was just making a general observation about the harsh nature of parenting forums and blog posts (in particular, the comments section). I was addressing the idea of judging others in broader terms, and not your specific arguments. And my understanding is that the comments section is there for discussion, not just to agree on what the author has written. If you don’t want to encourage discussion among your readers, I wonder why you bother having a comments section?! But, really, this conversation is ridiculous. You are far too defensive to promote healthy and friendly discussion. I won’t be reading any more of your blog posts.

          • Kevin Geary

            The comments section is for discussion about the article at hand. It’s respectful to keep the discussion *on topic* and not use the comments section as your own personal blog.

  • Jennifer

    This guy was so extreme in his examples. I found some things to be true but others way off. When it comes to the shopping cart scenario there are times that the parent knows the child is screaming for something specific like candy and has already explained to them that they cannot have it. They have tried to reason and calm them without giving in and the child still screams and throws a fit. Ignoring screams that would only be stopped by giving them what they want is not abuse…my goodness. I’ll bet the mother had already tried to help her daughter through her emotions before putting up that sign. I think instead of attacking this women try to find the humor in it. Let’s cut each other a little slack sometimes. Anyone with kids has been there and understands. There are ways to emotionally abuse your children of course but in my opinion this is not one of them.

    • Kevin Geary

      Ignoring screams that would only be stopped by giving them what they want is not abuse…my goodness.

      Perhaps you missed this part: “Just for clarification, I’m not arguing that allowing a child to cry is always emotional negligence. Emotional negligence is born out of the rejection of a crying child, not the act of allowing them to cry. Adopting a philosophy of “ignore tantrums, teach children that crying doesn’t work” represents the systematic rejection of emotional needs.”

      Nobody said allowing a child to cry or be upset is abuse. I’m all for having a discussion about this, but please don’t misrepresent the arguments.

      “I’ll bet the mother had already tried to help her daughter through her emotions before putting up that sign. I think instead of attacking this women try to find the humor in it.”

      As I mentioned, it’s not necessarily about the act of having a sign. It’s what the sign says. “She’s learning screaming doesn’t work” is hugely problematic. It’s a symptom that the mom is disconnected from the needs of the child; the need to be understood in a more age-appropriate and emotionally productive light, for starters.

  • I.macy

    Hi Kevin.

    I find your approach and way of analysing situations refreshing. I’ve read some of the previous comments by yourself and other readers and can say that I agree with the point you make in this piece.

    As humans, it is natural for us to be defensive in any situation where we believe that our ‘self’ is being attacked (verbally, emotionally and physically). This is also the case with parenting. When people judge our parenting (an action) we feel that they are judging our ‘self’ – who we are. As parents, I think the important thing to remember is that ( and just like life) parenting is a journey. We should make mistakes, learn, open our minds and explore new approaches, for the better. By being defensive when we think someone is judging our ‘selves’ (when I fact they are judging and action) we are missing an opportunity to improve and become a better parent.

    Of course, it is advisable to build up positive parenting philosophies As a guide and Remind us on those tough “off days” when we may unwittingly revert back to autopilot parenting.

  • Me

    Really I don’t think another human being should tell another human how to raise and not to raise their kids. You can only offer a little help here and there. I see nothing nothing in ignoring a crying child once in a while. You don’t expect a mom or dad to lash out at a 2yr old. Best thing sometimes is just to ignore. Kids can be manipulative at times, you see. We talk about “don’t judge,” yet what we actually end up doing is judge. I could never shame my child, you see as every home’s got their own bits and pieces of short-comings. Just train up your child in thje ways of Lord, somewhere in there they will always remember those teachings.

    • Kevin Geary

      Really I don’t think another human being should tell another human how to raise and not to raise their kids.

      Just train up your child in the ways of Lord, somewhere in there they will always remember those teachings.

      So, are you a hypocrite?

  • Me

    Plus this woman can’t just be labelled a bad mother just because she put a sign. You see, people only see things the one time and then they base their conclusion about you on that. That woman may have tried all her best to keep her daughter quiet and all the child wants is just all of her mom’s attention. But the woman has got other stuffs to finish up with as well, and falling for her child’s cry will not get any of the other stuffs done. One’s got to be real firm with children sometimes even if it tears at your heart. Spare the rod and spoil the child is a very common saying, but most parents don’t imbibe that. One step by a parent toward training her child is a step. You just happen to be there when a parent slaps her child, everyone concludes she’s a bad parent. What about 85percent of the times where she loves that child, and u’re not there to see? Give parenting a break. No one’s perfect at that. Your method can’t and shdn’t be my method.

    • Kevin Geary

      I never said she was a bad mother.

      That woman may have tried all her best to keep her daughter quiet and all the child wants is just all of her mom’s attention. But the woman has got other stuffs to finish up with as well, and falling for her child’s cry will not get any of the other stuffs done.

      In your other comment you said that you would never shame your child. Now, you’re making excuses for why it’s okay that this mom shamed her child.

      One’s got to be real firm with children sometimes even if it tears at your heart. Spare the rod and spoil the child is a very common saying, but most parents don’t imbibe that.

      I’m sorry that you don’t understand the concept of a rod in historical context. But, you’re wrong.

      You just happen to be there when a parent slaps her child, everyone concludes she’s a bad parent.

      If you came upon a man slapping his wife, what would you assume? Would you give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume he’s had a hard day? And you’d point out that he probably loves her 85% of the time that you’re not there to see? And you’d say, “give him a break, nobody is perfect?”

      Or, is this the second time you’re simply being a complete hypocrite?

    • Adrienne

      And yet, you would probably condemn people on how they keep their pets. We actually do have the right to say what should or shouldn’t be done regarding children and pets.

  • Danae

    Thank you for this article. I know myself I have been in the shopping centre and seen what I consider abuse, hitting, slapping, smacking, whatever you want to call it, and been too embarrassed or conditioned to step in and say stop, what your doing is not acceptable. As a peaceful parent I have myself been judged by others who laugh when I explain I give my child the same respect and consideration that I give my employer or grandmother. She is just as deserving as a fellow human being and yet I feel apprehensive about judging another parent publicly inflicting violence on their child. Thank you for helping me see the ridiculousness of this.

  • Angel

    I guess you just nailed the topic that we as a parent are struggling at every moment. I have been trough some crazy moments that I felt guilty and should have acted more like an adult to my boy. And I do admit that in most cases it is mainly to do with my mood than and bad behavior from my boy. And I also agree that there is no excuse in treating your child inappropriately caused you were having a bad day. I am here to thank your article for giving me “zooming out” moment and allowing me to take a step back to reflect on what I am doing, ie: is it out of convenient excuse for my bad behavior or true lesson to my boy.
    PSI feel very sorry to read some negative comments on this. Keep writing.

    • Kevin Geary

      Actually, it is my business.

      For one, the safety and wellbeing of those who can’t defend themselves is the responsibility of all.

      For two, myself and my children are going to be forced to interact with the products of everyone’s destructive parenting. That’s where crime comes from, that’s where war comes from, and that’s where most unethical behavior comes from.

      Your children don’t exist in a vacuum. At some point, they’re going to be released into the general public. Therefore, I have every right to express my opinion on how you raise them because I don’t want to have to deal with even more broken people.

    • Stephanie H

      When someone mistreats an animal, it’s called cruelty and you have every right to say this is not right. When a husband mistreats his wife (or a wife her husband) (physically and/or emotionally), it’s called domestic violence and you have every right to say this is not right. When someone mistreats (physically and/or emotionally) their child, you suddenly don’t have a right to say this is not right? You are suddenly judging the parents’ choices? I’m curious where the logic and humanity are in all this?

  • Stephanie H

    Another great article! thanks for sharing. I feel so sorry for this poor kid and actually all kids who are left to cry and scream in a supermarket or anywhere.

    I read briefly some comments and I must say I do not understand how some readers can say you are condescending or judging or shaming mainstream parents. I’m shocked that people do not understand what you are writing, it’s so obvious and it all just makes so much sense.

  • Anna kasman

    I am a new mom and have a one year old daughter. As I continue on this journey of raising my child, I am eager to learn of different parenting styles and have really enjoyed the authentic parenting perspective. My suggestion would be to provide alternate ways to raising children rather than explaining why another way is wrong. I can see that it is wrong, but more importantly, how do I handle the given situation in an authentic way. Perhaps providing links to previous articles that address the issue or addressing the issue within the article would be helpful.

    • Kevin Geary

      Hi Anna,

      We discuss implementation on our podcast and Facebook Group. It’s very beneficial for people to understand why certain strategies are destructive. We do provide balance in terms of showing people what to do as well.

      • Samantha

        I would be interested in learning some new approaches as well! I’m a mother of 4, one if my children has autism and it’s a struggle to find methods that work. I’m the parent that coddles I’ll admit lol I like to hug the bad out. Just one I guess. Doesn’t work all the time though!! I love this article. I would’ve never thought of things this way!

  • Gen

    I haven’t read all the comments. I find the assumptions that you’ve made about the sign posting mother to be somewhat unfair. I certainly dont agree with her actions (bizarre that she would draw attention to a tantrum) but I think your comments about emotional rejection are a huge leap based on this one image. If you’ve ever had one or more children throw a tantrum in a grocery store or wet/poop their pants or verbally/physically abuse you in public, it’s less about tools and more about getting the hell out of the public eye so you can address the concerns without the public gallery. As a mum of 4, including 1yr old twins, my parenting skills are regularly subjected to public scrutiny and the stares and comments (good and bad) are more emotionally exhsusting than dealing with the children. One of my twins will bite the other who will scream wildly for 10 seconds and bring a chorus of onlookers to shake their heads at me. Noone offers help. Noone gives a crap that you’ve had zero sleep for 8 years and your husband is constantly away. Noone knows your personal circumstances. But they all know that your child shouldn’t be screaming at their supermarket in the vicinity of their ears. And no, there is no grocery delivery service where I live or I would use it like all the other mums who dont have this amazing toolkit you speak of. What tool do you use to protect a sibling from being bitten? Body armor?

    • Stephanie H

      Hi Gen,
      I think that what you are describing and what I perceive also in our society, ist that there is no tolerance for children in the public space… that is very sad. And what I do and what I advise you to do also, is just ignore the people around you in those moments when your children are just being children (tantrums, crying, screaming, etc.). Often times total strangers (usually older men) have come to me and my son when he is crying, saying things like ‘don’t cry” or “you’re ugly when you’re crying”. I either don’t even bother replying (explaining afterwards to my child that this person doesn’t know anything about emotions) or I reply something like “he is a child and please don’t interfere”. Hoping this helps a little

    • Kevin Geary

      Hi Gen,

      I hear that this topic is very personal to you. But it sounds like you’re defending yourself more than this mom. The sign is very clear and I’ve already explained this in many comments—any parent who is at all interested in protecting their child’s emotional outlet is not going to make a sign like this.

  • Joanna

    Wow! I may be living in a deluded world but I’d like to think that the majority of loving parents know their child well enough to be able to make the decision as to whether a child is genuinely expressing an emotional need through their crying, or purely having a paddy because they can’t get the object that they want. In my experience, having brought up two lovely but very typical children, my experience of supermarket trolley tantrums, and many other tantrums, had nothing to do with an emotional need and more to do with a physical want. And in life, we can’t always get what we want. And my feeling is that if we’re comfortable in allowing our children to think that it’s ok to scream if we can’t get what we want, then we’re doing our children a great injustice. Just my opinion though…nothing to say that I’m right or wrong in my thinking. And behind my thinking (as with every other loving parent out there whether they feel the same as me or otherwise) is always the longing to do what’s best for my child…no other agenda.

    • Kevin

      I’d like to think that the majority of loving parents know their child well enough to be able to make the decision as to whether a child is genuinely expressing an emotional need through their crying, or purely having a paddy because they can’t get the object that they want…had nothing to do with an emotional need and more to do with a physical want.

      The majority of loving parents do know the difference. The majority of loving parents also don’t know how to handle these situations in a healthy manner. And what they end up doing is making their child’s emotions illegitimate, as did this mom. A 3 year old being very upset because you won’t buy them something is rational behavior from a 3 year old. If you expect otherwise, then you’re ill-prepared for parenting and/or lack empathy. Tantrums are a necessary part of child development.

      And in life, we can’t always get what we want.

      There’s a massive difference between not getting what you want, and not being able to feel angry that you can’t get what you want. Understand?

      And my feeling is that if we’re comfortable in allowing our children to think that it’s ok to scream if we can’t get what we want, then we’re doing our children a great injustice.

      This statement is age-dependent. There’s nothing about can do about a toddler throwing a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. If you constantly stop them, you’re actually stunting their emotional development. Empathizing with a toddler who is throwing a tantrum does not mean you’ll have a 14 year old who screams and cries and throws themselves on the ground if you don’t buy them every video game. It sounds like that’s your fear, but it’s coming from a place of misunderstanding.

  • Jo

    Thank you for this article. I’m often judging other parents (hardly ever out loud heaven forbid, I don’t want to be burned at the stake) but as a first time parent of twins I want to get it right and I invite the comments of others if I’m not getting it right. I might not like it but it would give me something to think about. Sadly none feels they can speak out about anything because of said “Don’t Judge” mentality. It’s like saying that at the start of a sentence gives them some sort of immunity against comments they may not want to (but NEED to) hear. I’m far from perfect but do my best every day and if I slip into bad habits (like yelling at my kids after 3 consecutive nights of less than 4 hours broken sleep) and my neighbour calls me up on it. I say (and I did) “yeah, I know, no excuse but Im beyond exhausted. I’ll have to work on being more respectful towards them” rather than say scream back at them that they have no right to judge me! That would surely lose me some friends and isn’t going to help me parent my kids any better. Why are people so resistant to even the smallest amount of constructive criticism or comments on their parenting if they have an idea they may be wrong? Is it because they KNOW they’re right? With smacking for instance?

    For eg if someone were to judge me on breastfeeding my 2yr old twins I would fully have a go at them. But that’s because I know what I’m doing is natural and right for all of us. Is that what the “DON’T JUDGE ME” parents are feeling or is it guilt because they know it’s wrong?

  • KM

    Ignoring a tantrum is not neglecting a child’s emotional requirements. In most cases, parents will have already travelled the path of askingvthe child “why do you feel the need to scream?”. Ignoring a screaming child is hard to do and parents usually do this as a last resort.

    Walk around a supermarket and you will stumble across at least one family where a child is throwing a hairy canary conniption simply because he/she is not permitted to get the item that is not required. Children need to be respected, not pandered to. Kids are manipulative – consciously and subconsciously. If they screamed before to get a toy/sweet that the parent said no to already, but the parent relented, the behaviour us learned. However, crying to get what you want is an evolutionary programme. Babies cry to be fed/changed. Parents respond automatically to those cries.

    • Stephanie H

      I believe what your are saying is self contradicting, as you are claiming children are manipulative when screaming/crying to get an item from the supermarket, yet saying also “However, crying to get what you want is an evolutionary programme.” If the second claim is correct, it cancels out the hypothesis that children are being manipulative in the supermarket…
      An alternative to “children are being amnipulative when screaming in the supermarket” is: children are overwhelmed by all the stimuli in a supermarket. Their brains are not able to handle all the stimuli, let alone the frustration of not being able to touch everything.
      BTW what has worked wonders with my child in supermarkets is to actually stop assuming he wants me to buy everything, and just let him point at things, touch things, talk about how it would be neat to have that item but also how it is soooo expensive that mommy can’t buy it. It’s actually quite easy and simple to avoid tantrums as soon as you stop assuming the kid wants you to buy everything in the store. I have never bought a toy for my kid when he was there with me. that helps probably too.

  • LR

    I rarely comment in comment sections but something about your article, Kevin, resonated with me and also irked me. Probably because like several other readers have pointed out it does get tiring when I log onto Facebook to catch up with friends and am bombarded with articles critisising in one or another others parenting choices. Like most parents I’m not as secure as I would like to be with my parenting skills. I am by no means perfect. So it can be hard not to give into the temptation to click on the next parenting article. We all have the hope that it will somehow be enlightening. However for the most part the internet tends to be pretty unhelpful for me: evolutionary parenting, attachment parenting, “peaceful” parenting (this is a new one for me, did you coin this yourself?), authoritarian parenting….the list goes on and all with their fair share of contradictions, inconsistencies etc. So many parenting “techniques” and so far I haven’t found much of it especially helpful, just endlessly confusing. And I know I am absolutely not alone in this.

    I agree overall with your statement about judging. Obviously it is impossible not to judge. Our minds are indeed programmed to judge. To try to stop your mind judging is setting yourself up for at best an internal struggle you will never win, at worst a brain aneurysm.

    However I do think you may have slightly missed the point of some parents who say “don’t judge”. There are 2 basic forms of judgement we make. Immediate “hot” judgements e.g. “She’s an awful parent” and judgements based on thoughtful analysis of “facts” to reach a conclusion e.g. “She could have handled that better in the circumstances because of a b or c followed ideally by a “here’s how she could have handled that better”. I think there are few parents out there who, with careful consideration, would actually expect other parents to literally stop judging each other entirely as if you can somehow switch it off. I think what most parents mean when they so don’t judge, but perhaps can’t articulate, is don’t make absolute judgements (e.g she is an awful parent etc) and buy into them,(certainly you will have them, but there’s no need to express them since for the most part judgements such as these are utterly unhelpful) without understanding the context of a persons actions.

    As a fellow reader has pointed out you don’t know the context of this parents day. Perhaps she did try everything before to calm her kid. Perhaps she tried all the wrong things before to get her kid to behave a little better (gave her sweets, whatever) and has decided to change tack. Perhaps the best way in this moment is to let her cry it out and that her kid dies at some point need to learn that crying every time she goes to the supermarket will not work. Are you suggesting this is not something the little girl needs to learn at some point? I doubt it but you did state you had a problem with the words on the sign.

    I think the biggest issue is not the sign, perhaps it’s more the fact that this lady posted a picture of her daughter (however you didn’t seem sure it was the mother herself, so it could have been a stranger). with this sign on social media,which might not necessarily have been an attempt at shaming, but you have now compounded this little girls potential future humiliation by using it in your blog, which she cannot give her permission for. I think this is somehow hypocritical on your part is it not? Perhaps use another means to make your point.

    Also I’m assuming you write this blog to help parents do the best they can for their children in a world that is in your view waging war on them, and not as an academic exercise to build your ego. If so I do think you could be a little more empathetic with some of the readers commenting, otherwise you’re just alienating the very people that possibly need guidance the most.

    • Kevin Geary

      I’m not sure what the purpose of your comment is, other than to vent. While I don’t know the context of this parent’s day, I *do* know that laminated signs don’t just appear on shopping carts. This was pre-meditated. And you’re choosing to ignore that because I believe your insecurity (as you yourself stated) is causing you shame and regret and any other number of emotions. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with me.

      You did not take your commenting opportunity to challenge any argument I’ve made. You simply seem to be saying that I should write articles in a different style. But my style is my style because it’s my style. Instead of choosing to take a very valuable lesson from what you read, you choose instead to criticize in a very unproductive way.

      You’re talking about a context of “don’t judge” as if I didn’t lay out a very precise context in the article. That’s not helpful and it’s quite frustrating. And you’re blaming me for reposting a picture of an anonymous person more than you’re willing to accept the lessons you’re reading. Again, not helpful and very frustrating.

      This may sound like a harsh statement, but it’s the truth: Your child will be better served when you overcome your own baggage.

      • Stephanie H

        this quote from you “Instead of choosing to take a very valuable lesson from what you read, you choose instead to criticize in a very unproductive way.” perfectly sums up the whole “don’t judge” nonsense! that is very well said 🙂 every where on social media i wonder every day why is it that people, instead of taking a moment to think and question themselves/their values/methods/whatever, instantaneously feel attacked/judged/critized/etc and feel the need to defend themselves so passionately, missing an opportunity to learn and better themselves / better our society. it never ceases to amaze me.
        I love every one of your response on this thread, you are just so direct and honest.

        • Kevin Geary

          Thanks Stephanie, I try. It’s irritating that people care more about their personal sensitivities than the wellbeing of children…even their own. I thought I would prevent comments like this with my opening line, “They need powerful, rational parents who are willing to do the hard work to cut through the bullshit of life.”

          There’s not a lot of “cutting through” going on.

          • Stephanie H

            yes exactly, there should be more cutting through! in everyday life too, if we were all strong enough to recognize that the feeling of being attacked/shamed/judged/etc. comes from within, and not from the person who we are interacting with, then life would be so much more simple and easy for everyone! but it is a hard journey.

  • Ruzica

    I do judge other parents. Not because it is only human, but because their parenting choices deeply affect me. The first time my kid heard of a word “punishment” was in the kindergarten, when a girl put her to sit in a certain place and called it “a punishment”. My kid never did anything wrong, of course, it’s just that the girl, slightly older than my own, felt like lashing out on somebody smaller than herself. My kid just thought of it as a game. Then she came home and asked us what the word “punishment” meant. And we told her. And the next time the girl from the kindergarten wanted to play the same game, my kid cried. How much more obvious can it be that the little girl had been emotionally neglected by her parents, and sent for a time-out called “punishment”?!
    So, yes, I do judge other parents, because when they fail to be good parents, their kids, out of insecurity and anger, became bullies and lash out on my own kids, and then I am supposed to heal my children and correct other people’s mistakes. Them being lazy makes me work more, and I just don’t consider it right. As simple as that.

  • Rache

    Very well written the ‘children are not property’ spoke to me particularly. All over the place I see the phrase ‘my baby my choice’ and it frustrates me to no end for the particular reason.

  • Ray

    People should definitely not be raised to think or react to the worlds phenomena as though they will be cared for forever. Certainly we must seek to help keep each-other safe but this is not how it works out ever. The result? we must teach our children to become independent emotionally. I know of some co-parenting permissive fools in ithaca ny who let there child burn down a neighbors house then had the kid put up a kick starter account to get others to pay for his mistake. This was encouraged and accepted as a response by nearly the entire ‘alt community in ‘ithaca’. The lesson the child learned? you tell me… Seeking to keep children in the same mindless cattle minded bubble of cultural powerlessness is also abuse.

  • Jessica D in CNY

    I couldn’t agree more. You’re spot on. Except I admit that I struggle with resisting to judge overall. I am one who doesn’t subscribe to the whole “Excuse the mess…our kids are making memories” but instead maintain a neat, orderly home. We subscribe to both minimalist and Montessori philosophies in our home, so I tend to judge those who head homes that are beyond mild states of disarray. I’m trying to change that judgemental part of me and find if hard. Also, as a teacher, I have trouble not interjecting when I come face to face with crappy parenting. I tend to speak up or desire to teach children to advocate for themselves. Just because my parents didn’t do the greatest doesn’t mean I will do the same, but others definitely do follow in their parents’ footsteps.. I research and read and practice skills to be the healthiest, most effective parent I can be.

  • Nicholas

    I agree because, I get judge every day for how I am and how I dress but, now I know that they aren’t hurting themselves and they aren’t helping at all. Even, disabled kids like myself get judge every day. I know now that they can change and make progress and they can keep doing what their doing. I knoe po w in each of these kids heart and soul there is a angel inside. I know that your being a follower but stand up to judging, because, you can also make a difference in the future and like I said… Your the only person that can change it not other’s. ???????

  • test

    Appreciating the time and energy you put into your blog and detailed information you provide.
    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted
    rehashed information. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m
    including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  • hopeful

    If you are actually interested in helping people change the tone of your other bogs, full of support and caring would work better. This is the honest educated opinion of a mother and family therapist. Parent’s, but mothers in particular ahve been shamed, blamed, and advised so intensely and for so long it is amazing that we still have children.

  • Vika Korotayeva

    I’ve just read the article (not comments yet), and am glad that there is someone who also sees how abusive is to just “ignore all those all stupid tantrums of those all vile manipulators”. Those who give advices like “ignore tantrums” or “ignore trolls” – seem to be not in much contact even with their own feelings. So am glad that you also see that such parents (and people at all) are not to blame. Maybe that was what they meant by saying “don’t judge” – “don’t blame”. But I agree that we have to do something and that judging is not always about blame. One of my fave articles for now. P. S.: I’d like to read about when a friend says “I don’t care about your drama.”… And about “You want too much if you want replies.”… Just trying to offer some topics…

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Can We All Stop With the “Don’t Judge” Non…

by Kevin Geary time to read: 7 min
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