Why Judgment Is So Toxic In Our Parenting

I recently read a book called “Judgment Detox” by Gabrielle Bernstein and it was thought-provoking and a worthwhile read, especially from a parenting perspective.

No matter how big or small, whatever way you look at it, judgment is judgment. And when it shows up in our parenting it is toxic. It never bodes well. 

Since reading this book, I have been decoding and deciphering my judgment and trying to understand just why I do it, why it is so seductive and destructive. It has been so helpful.

Why do I do it?

I judge or make an assumption about something or someone in order to try and understand it or them. I NEED to understand something in order to feel in control because not knowing is a highly uncomfortable and vulnerable place to be. I think that as parents, it is something we all fall into the trap of doing. We judge. Why we do it will be different for all of us. But, I can almost guarantee that if you are a parent reading this, that you will, in some way shape or form, judge your kids!

What do I do and how does judgment come into play?

I make an assumption based on what I see or hear and I create a story in order to “understand” it because it is quick and it is easy. It is also reassuring and seductive. In a split second, BOOM I have it all figured out. Now I know. And the seduction of knowing feels good doesn’t it!

Until it all catches up to us. Until we find ourselves tangled in a net of reactivity with our child.  

In Episode 21 “Why Judging Our Kiddos Is So Toxic” in my podcast Parenting In The Thick Of It, I discuss judgment. It’s a toxic pattern and one that many parents do without even knowing they are doing. I explain why we do it and what you can do to get out of it. Tune in…

We have to remember that stories are just that. Stories. They are based on our thoughts and our thoughts are not real. So, therefore, my judgment is also not real. It is a fiction. It’s fabricated on my perspective, my interpretation and my want to understand things, my way.

But it goes further than this. This toxic cycle doesn’t end here.

I then attach to the story I created. I believe the story. It becomes real. Then I identify with the story. The problem is that as soon as I or someone questions my story, I take it personally. It’s as if they are questioning ME. It becomes all about ME.

When this happens, I feel attacked by either myself if it a story I have created about me or by the other if it was by them and it influences my subsequent actions.

The net result: blame, projection, reactivity and conflict.

And. All. From. Judging.

Think about how this might be playing out with you and your child or partner, or a co-worker or even friend in situations where you do not feel heard.

Every parent I work with complains about this. I do too!

“My kids never listen to me!”

Let’s use this as an example. On page 39 of the book, there is a table with four questions:

  1. What or whom am I judging – My child
  2. How does this judgment make me feel? – Good, right, justified
  3. Why do I feel justified in this judgment? – Because it allows me to believe that it is true – she’s not listening
  4. What moment in my life triggered me to feel justified in this judgment? – Probably the fact that I never felt heard as a child (children were seen and not heard right!) and need to be heard to feel worthy. If I’m not being heard, I am not worthy.

I found this a very interesting exercise to do as not only did it help me deconstruct the judgment, it revealed my judgmental patterns. It is only when we become aware of the patterns that we can bring about a change. For much of the time, I realized that I was not really listening to my kids so they didn’t feel heard. This triggered them, which triggered me and boom, in a heartbeat, we would be tangled in the toxic judgment net. Of course, in my more sane moments, I know that I am worthy and that if my child doesn’t listen to me, it has nothing to do with my worth. But when I’m triggered, I can very easily go down this toxic judgmental path.

In the book, Gabrielle Bernstein discusses a six-step approach to help us heal our judgment.

The first step is about witnessing our judgment without judgment which is powerful because we have to be compassionate with ourselves. Judgment is, dare I say it, almost a pre-wired human condition! Who doesn’t do it?

However, I think there’s a step I need to take before I can witness it. To witness something is to experience it. In order to experience something, I have to know that it is there.  

I have to develop a Judgment Radar Detector (JRD).

I have to be able to implement my JRD to Mind My Mind. I have to know where my mind is. Is it here, in the present moment, now? Or is it off gallivanting somewhere else, running amok, untamed, constructing stories and judging!                                              

Because a judgment is a thought, I have to learn to watch my thoughts, so that I can detach from the unhealthy ones. The ones superfluous to requirements. I have to learn to LET.THEM.GO and not get on that thought train.

My breath helps me get out of my mind and anchor back into the present moment like nothing else can. It helps me stay on the “platform of awareness” (Dr. Shefali Tsabary). Isn’t that an amazing analogy; to be on a platform of awareness. Wow!

I have to first notice and be aware of my judgment.

Then I can witness my judgment, with no judgment.

Once I have witnessed it, I can consciously choose to shift from judgment to curiosity. When I do this, I open myself up to more perspective, more depth and understanding and, more connection and compassion.

So when I hear myself say “My kids never listen to me” I witness the judgment with no judgment and replace the thought with “I wonder why they are not listening to me?”. This curious approach will have a very different outcome.

We have to go deep within, look beneath the surface, in ourselves and in others. We are all like icebergs, we carry with us much more than meets the eye. Making assumptions and predictions about people and their behaviour is akin to being on thin ice. So rather than crashing through the ice to a depth we are forced to react, defend, blame, project etc, instead, we can get curious and tread softly. Feel the cracks. Be gentle with the cracks.

Walk in their shoes.

For it is there you will find yourself wearing a compassionate hat and discover more connection and intimacy with those you walk with. 

And when you show up with compassion, curiosity and no judgment, the stage is set for a great show.

Mindfully Yours,


2 thoughts on “Why Judgment Is So Toxic In Our Parenting

  1. Heidi Dellaire

    I am taking these 4 questions with me.
    What or whom am I judging
    How does this judgment make me feel?
    Why do I feel justified in this judgment?
    What moment in my life triggered me to feel justified in this judgment?

    Tacking them to my desk!
    Thank you.

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