The other day my husband said something very judgmental about the decision of a parent we know. I was a bit taken aback but realized I myself am often judging the actions and decisions of others in my daily life.
It’s easy to be insecure when you’re a parent. There are so many daily opportunities to mess up. Our children are not sculptor’s clay to be molded into the exact image we want but rather moving targets we hope to keep up with and keep safe. Some of the questions my husband and I have had to consider over the years are: How late should our child stay up/out? When are they old enough to go to the mall with friends or take the train downtown? Should we allow our teenager to sleep over at a friend’s? How much allowance should we give? Should our kids do more around the house? The list goes on.
I have found that it is very difficult not to look at other parents’ answers to these questions for their own children and judge them. Often I have thought, why can’t all the parents in my community have the same rules for our kids? It would make life so much easier!
It’s not that I am a moral relativist. I do believe in right and wrong. To paraphrase my mother from days of old, if my friends all jumped off a cliff, I would not join them. But there are so many gray areas, and it’s not up to me to be the parenting correctness police. As an example, a friend and I were talking about movies, and he related a funny story about his own permissiveness when it comes to which movies he will let his kids see. I shared the fact that I am ultra-strict when it comes to the age at which I would allow my children to watch certain TV shows or types of films. The point is, neither of us is necessarily right or wrong. We have simply done what is comfortable for us and what reflects our own values.
It takes humility to be tolerant of other people’s behavior and choices that don’t conform with our own judgments. I certainly don’t want to be judged on the fact that my kids are not required to do any chores, for instance. And it takes strength to insist upon the rules and values we hold to be important in our own lives and with our own families. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said to my children, “I don’t care what other kids are allowed to do. This is the rule in our family.”
As the Bible says, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) Wise words indeed.