How To Stop Being A Judgemental Parent

Fault-finding or constant criticism can be damaging to your child’s emotional well-being. Here are some ways to avoid being a judgemental parent.

By Amrita Gracias

How To Stop Being A Judgemental Parent

A judgemental attitude can be explained as being critical in a manner that is not helpful. Individuals who are judgmental are constantly engaged in finding faults. But, why are we judgmental? According to Arundhati Swamy, Counsellor and Head – Parent Engagement Programmes, ParentCircle, “We tend to judge others when they behave or do things differently from what we believe is right or best.” She further explains, “While we do want to teach and train our children well, we can choose to do so in a nurturing way, so that the child builds a positive image of himself.”

As parents, we have opinions about our children which we often share with them. But, how can we know that we aren’t being judgmental?

Here are a few common characteristics of judgemental parents:

  • Are usually perfectionists
  • Have unrealistic expectations
  • Are reluctant to praise their children’s efforts
  • Find it difficult to trust their children’s abilities
  • Compare their children with others
  • Are very rigid about rules
  • Have a controlling attitude—telling their children what they should or shouldn’t do
  • Have a habit of focussing on their children’s faults instead of achievements

How being a judgmental parent affects the child and the parent–child relationship

Children of judgmental parents feel emotionally insecure. They feel that their parents’ love for them is conditional—that is, they are loved only when they fulfil their parents’ expectations. Being judged at every step fills the child with negative thoughts, which affects his self-esteem. The child begins to suffer from a lack of motivation and feels reluctant to try and do new things, as he fears being criticised. Also, the child craves for his parents’ acceptance and approval. “It is natural for a child to make mistakes while learning and growing up, but when this process is interfered with, the child feels stuck and helpless,” says Ms Arundhati. All this emotional stress has a negative impact on the child’s academic performance and social relationships.

Judgmental parents cast a negative effect on their relationship with their child. To their child, they come across as someone who needs to be pleased all the time. This creates a sense of fear in the child’s mind and makes him resentful. “The relationship is not built on confidence but rather on expectations and fears”, Ms Arundhati says.

If you think that you are a judgmental parent, and now that you also know how your habit can adversely affect your child and your relationship with him, won’t you want to shun the habit? If yes, then, here are a few tips to help you in your endeavour to reform yourself.

  1. Reflect on your own experiences: A judgemental attitude is often the result of an individual’s past experience of being critically judged, usually by his own parents. However, parents are not the only ones who should be blamed. Being judged in school could also give rise to this behaviour. So, reflecting on the early years of your life can help you understand how you developed this habit. “Going back to your own experiences helps you realise where your own patterns of criticism are coming from,” says Ms Arundhati. “Reflection helps parents empathise with the child and what she is going through when she faces constant criticism,” she adds.
  2. Have realistic expectations: Make sure that you have realistic expectations from your child, as the ability to understand and communicate differs with age. Read through the developmental guidelines to learn and understand what children of different ages are capable of to avoid having high, or unrealistic, expectations from your child. But, also remember that each child is unique and the learning curves may differ. So, understand your child’s talents and weaknesses and set your expectations based on these.
  3. Encourage rather than criticise: While you may think that criticism will help your child improve, she might feel demoralised and frustrated. So, instead of being critical, offer your encouragement. This always works better and has long-term positive outcomes. You can do this by focussing on the successes of your child and appreciating her efforts. “Celebrate the progress and small successes,” says Ms Arundhati. She explains that criticism wouldn’t sound negative, provided it is for a clear reason and is offered in a manner that helps a child become aware of her shortcomings. So, instead of being critical, encourage your child to come up with ways to improve herself.
  4. Prioritise what is important: Think of more important things and behaviours you want your child to learn and make those your priority. Try to ignore your child’s little mistakes and control your urge to criticise him for them. And, if you must, then, criticise the behaviour – not the child. Also, don’t compare your child with others, as this will only make you more judgemental.

You aren’t perfect and your child doesn’t have to be perfect either. “Instead of proving that you are a good parent to someone, use your energies to build your relationship with your child,” says Ms Arundhati.

Do your best to keep your criticism to the minimum and provide ample guidance instead. Although it may be difficult for you to not judge your child, be aware of the emotions your child would experience when he listens to your words of criticism. Remember, being judgemental does not contribute to healthy nurturing.

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