Parenting | Avoiding the judgment trap

These days I am reading the book “Your Child’s Self-Esteem” by Dorothy Corkille Briggs.  I am still in the process of reading and plan to finish it by next week.   As a mom, I often got gusts of guilty feelings along reading since many of the inappropriate examples seem talking about me.  That proves this books is very worthy reading.  It pin-points the usual questions of each parent face and give step-by-step solutions to build your children’s self-esteem.  I plan to read this book in a way to read a school textbook and prepare school exams.  In this way, I’ll understand and absorb the content better, in hope to put the theories into my daily parenting practice. While reading along, I’ll exert some chapters or examples in this blog for self- examination, and also for sharing.

Avoiding the judgment trap

(Page 65)

Parents are constantly advised to spend more time with children.  Yet, it is the quality of time and not the quantity that affects the feeling of being loved.  Mr. H spends hours with his youngsters, working with them on projects and games. On the surface the time spent looks like proof of devotion.  But when you observe, you hear a flow of comments like these:

“Stop dawdling over your turn, Jimmy. Get going!”
“You’re not holding that saw right.  How many times have I told you to hold it this way?”
“Why can’t pitch that ball the way your brother does? When will you learn to throw from your shoulder?”
“You’ve messed up this paint job.  Here, let me do it. For Pete’s sake, this time watch me. If you’re going to do something, do it right!”
The hours with his youngsters are filled with criticisms, lack of respect, comparisons, and high demands.  The more time his children spend with him, the less adequate and lovable they feel.  Sheer time does not necessarily add up to love.

(Page 86-87)

To avoid judgments, tell your youngsters what is going on inside you without using labels.
The labeling words — adjectives and nouns that describe a person — are the ones that cause trouble. Words like “dawdler,” “messy,” “procrastinator,” “sloppy,” “rude,” “mean,” “selfish,” “naughty,” “nice,” “good,” “bad,” “shameful,” and so on are judgmental by nature.  Such labels have no place in the vocabulary of nurturing adults.
In general, using “You,” and following it by a noun  or adjective describing the child, sends a judgment.  Ordinarily, “I,” followed by what is going on inside you, sends a reaction toward behavior.  Let’s look again at some messages send first as judgments, and then as reactions.
1) Stop nagging.  Kids are kids.  They develops according to their growth path.  It’s not fair to treat them as perfect figures, or as mature adults.  Honestly speaking, how mature an adult is?  I am in my late 30’s, but still in the process of self-improvement.  Be aware of any words coming out of a parent’s mouth.  Examine them before shooting them out of mouth.  If the words are not positive or productive, the parent and kids would be better off if the parent shuts up.  Sometimes, kids performs something improper in the parents’ eyes, they make funny noises or gestures in public, they go to scrutinize the flowers on the road side while you are rushing to somewhere, they refuses to cooperate to your request in face of your friends.  If they are not big issues, just live with them.  Only if you understand and tolerate their trivial childish words and actions, will you find the virtue of your kids, and will you enjoy every minutes spent with your kids.
2) Practice nonjudgment.  Use “I-reaction” — “I,” followed by what is going on inside you, sends a reaction toward behavior. Learning to suspend judgment is far from easy, because most of us have spent a lifetime being judged ourselves.  Below is one excise I did for my situation:-
“You are such a picky eater.” –>> “I am worried you don’t have enough energy to play ball later.”  “I really hope you can try this new food.”  “I feel so happy you like this pie.”
3) Treat the kids as friends.  Parents sometimes act as if kids don’t have feelings because they ignore their existence and discuss their kids’ shortcomings publicly in front of the kids.
In the book one page 90, the author wrote,
Ask yourself this question: “If I were to treat my friends as I treat my children, how many friends would I have left?”  Few of us would think of shaming or analyzing friends in front of others, jerking them up short with sarcasm, humiliating, embarrassing, hitting, or ordering them about like soldiers under our command.  Of course not.
A child is no less sensitive because of his size.  Disrespect always encrusts caring so that it can’t be felt.

Am I pretty?

According to the aesthetic standard of ordinary Chinese people, I am pretty, at least I was so when I was little.  One of the proofs is that, very often a random passer-by pointed at me out of a group of girls on the way to and fro school, and said, “Oh, look at that little girl.  She is so pretty.”

I never knew I am pretty though, although the above said proof.  One of the reasons was because my mom often scolded me by saying, “Don’t stare with your stupid big eyes.”  Due to my own character, I was very sensitive to my mom’s judgement.  I thus believed that I was very awkward; especially with my big eyes on my face, my expression might be very stupid.  When I grew up, whenever people admired my pretty, alert, penetrating, big eyes, I was very surprised and thought it was only their politeness.   I finally trusted their appraisal to be true when my dearest husband also liked my big eyes.

I don’t blame my mom.  Being a housewife from the small village of rural area in China, she didn’t take any school.  So the way she taught us was primitive, without any deliberate methods.  Actually most parents in our village taught their kids in this way.  That’s why most of the kids dropped out from elementary school or middle school.  Very few went to high school, not mentioning college.  So the case like my life path was very rare and exceptional considering my growth environment.  My parents have been very proud of me, because I jumped out of the rural area and went to big cities, and then went abroad.  My fellow villagers are  proud of me too because the world I saw was out of their imagination.  For them, some of the elders never went out of the rural area, and they even don’t know the earth is round.

I am lucky that I can explore the outer big world.  However, due to my primitive educational method, there have been lots and lots of inner struggles in my mind along the way when I was trying my best to adapter to the outer world. For example, my mom used to tell me that, “all our neighbors look down upon us, you have to study hard to be distinguished.” I followed her advice and studied hard and fulfilled my (or her) dream.  However, the success was based on distorted motivation.  I found myself end up caring too much about others’ opinions, and being very socially awkward.  Looking backward, I don’t even know what my mom’s theory “all our neighbors look down upon us” is based on.  Maybe she only wanted to motivate me.  My obedience to my mom helped my outward success, but also deteriorate my inner value.

Now that I am literate with one bachelor degree and three masters degrees under my belt, I should be responsible for myself, instead of complaining around.  I would like to cure every single wound inside.  I want to become a person with high self-esteem and lead a life with meaning.  Honestly speaking, I still don’t know how.  But at least, I have the courage to face up to my inner world, and write an article about it.   To me, this is a big step.

I am a mom of two lovely kids now.  I know the enormous influence of a mom upon their kids’ future lives, given myself as an example.  I understand the huge responsibility to educate my kids in the proper way.  Not a time I felt like treading on the thin ice,  and sometimes I got the feeling of helplessness.  I know myself well enough so when my kids perform short of my expectation, I would figure it out that, “even I myself is kinda messy inside, how can I impose high request on my kids?”  Secretly I am convicted that I shall elect example for my kids.

Self-improvement is a learning process.  Parenting can be learned too.  Thankfully, there are a lot of classic books on both subjects.   I am eager to devour them and apply them to my life.  Stay tuned!

Three| Take It Easy


I am practicing a more balanced and slow-down life with the mindset of “take it easy”:  Motherhood –  Don’t compare the kid’s performance with the best one in the field.

It’s quite well known that Chinese parents are “tiger moms” and they push very hard their kids as well as themselves in an attempt to raise academically successful kids. Being a Chinese mom, I am often tempted to compare my kids’ progress with their peers and strived to be the best. “Someone’s kid swims very well, you should start to learn swim too.” “some kid is a chess champion, you should practise more of your chess.” etc.etc… No. I know this kind of thinking is not good. After all, the purpose of motherhood is to raise happy and healthy kids, not academically successful kids. That’s the basic point.

The other day, when I read a discussion thread regarding the topic of how to raise more independent kids in one of the popular forums, one of the comments was very inspiring to me, “The other day I went to see my friend’s kid play football. His name is Jim. One of the kids on the field was very active and played very well. In comparison, Jim wasn’t very active and showed somewhat constraint during the play. However, if you didn’t compare Jim’s performance with the very active kid, he played quite to a normal standard of his age. Jim’s parents didn’t compare his performance with the other kid. Thus, the whole family actually had a good time on the field.”

Yeah, I can’t agree more: Don’t compare your kid’s performance with the best one in the field.  I have to constantly remind myself of this.  Here are the three key point that I determined to do:-

1. Purposely ignore some of the childish behaviors of my kids. Allow them to act silly sometimes. Kids are kids. They act according to their age. I don’t request them to behave according to adult’s standard.

2. In a team or with some other kids, I don’t only look at the best kids in the group and compare my kids’ performance to that kid’s. My kids have their own talents and progress. As a mom, I should and have to learn not to compare.

3. Enjoy my kids’ progress. Encourage more. Absolutely no negative or belittling words.

Motherhood isn’t easy. It’s a learning process for me. I’ll monitor closely of my own motherhood progress, instead of staring at my kids’ performances. For now, I’ll to stick to the above three points.

Two| Take It Easy


I am practicing a more balanced and slow-down life with the mindset of “take it easy”:  Motherhood – don’t worry too much about the kids.

Mom is the life and soul of a family.   She determines the atmosphere of the family life.   With an unhappy mom, it’s almost impossible to have a happy family.  However, most of the moms are worried too much of their kids: school, work, health, marriage — almost everything of their kids.  How can a mom like this be a happy mom?

According to the Law of Attraction, you can get whatever you want, as long as you have strong enough desire.

If a mom believes her kids have the power and ability to deal with all the issues and difficulties in their lives, this “believe” will become a “bless”.  As a consequence, her kids will become truly blessed because of such strong blessing from their mom.  On the contrary, if a mom worries too much of their kids, this “worry” may become a “curse”.  The aftereffect might be her kids becoming what she worries about.

Therefore, mom, please examine your each and every flashing thinking in your mind: do you truly believe and thus bless your kids, or do you worry too much?  Truly, if you love your kids, don’t worry for them, believe in them, bless them!

I read this Chinese article from here.  This article came in just in time.  I need such positive thinking.  Kids have their own way of life, and they have to learn to face and experience their own life.  As a mom, the best I can do is to believe in them, trust them, and bless them.

Original article:







一个妈妈如果相信:她的孩子有能力去面对他自己的生活困境 与难题,那么这个相信就是一个“祝福”,而她的孩子也会因着这样的祝福而蒙福的。相反的,如果一个母亲老是“觉得”她的孩子不懂事,不会照顾自己,一定会吃亏上当的,那么这个“担心”很可能就成了“诅咒”,以后你的孩子果然就会如你之前所担心的那样,老是出状况令你担心。佛家讲“愿力”、“念力”,你的愿有多大,实践的力量就有多大。