Recently some mothers of young children engaged in a discussion about passing judgment. It was unanimous; they would all teach their children that being judgmental of other people is wrong. They would be sure not to model judgmental behavior and they would correct their children if they caught them being judgmental. Sounds good in theory…
but, shouldn’t children be taught and encouraged to be judgmental? This article is not advocating teaching children to be judgmental of people based on skin color, physical ability, religion, intellectual, or economic differences, of course. It is about teaching children about values and behavior and assessing situations.
judg·ment Pronunciation[juhj-muh nt] –noun
|1.||an act or instance of judging.|
|2.||the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.|
According to the dictionary definition of the word judgment (above), the word embraces one of the most important concepts that parents need teach their children: critical thinking.
Critical thinking consists of mentally evaluating information, analyzing that information and forming a judgment which leads to smart action. A good example of using critical thinking is when a driver applies the brakes when speeding towards the edge of a cliff. The driver notes the cliff edge ahead, gauges his speed and using good sense, slows the vehicle down avoiding disaster.
Critical thinking and making judgments allow children to self-regulate their social, emotional, and physical responses to outside stimuli and stay in control. If a child is put into a situation in which he must choose between good and bad, he can make an assessment of the situation, and using the skills he has been taught by his parents, make a good choice. Children can be taught to think a few steps ahead, envision the consequences of their actions, and make appropriate choices based on the values and morals taught by their parents. Parents can take a proactive role in teaching critical thinking by discussing topics that children will most likely encounter as they develop; such as peer pressure, failure in sports, stress due to grades, managing spending and handling relationships. Role playing can be a great tool in preparing kids in advance for likely situations. Parents can use their wisdom to coach their children about how to respond in certain instances.
Parents should not assume that their children understand how to think critically and judge situations. Children’s brains do not fully develop until well into their teenage years (or beyond). Because of this they are often unable to make certain connections. In addition, due to their immaturity they do not have the capacity to understand the impact of their decisions. A sixteen year old boy who is adept at video games may jump into a high performance car and within moments slam it into a tree, not understanding that he doesn’t really know how to control the car even though he has been “driving” the same car on the screen for years (unfortunately, a true story).
Over the course of the past twenty years, with the introduction of the internet, society has become information driven. With all of the benefits that technology has given, it has also exposed people to loads of false content. This is very difficult for children to understand because they see the world more concretely than adults and have little reason not to believe all of what they see and hear. For example they are easily duped by pedophiles posing as thirteen year old children on social networking sites. They believe rumors and spread them like wildfire about any individual or situation. Now more than ever, learning and using critical thinking and passing judgment is crucial, especially for children who are not old enough to understand the dire consequences of poor decision making.
Not passing judgment turns good and bad into moral equivalents. The distinction between the two states is removed and suddenly there is no line to cross; everything is acceptable.
It has become politically incorrect to distinguish between good behavior and bad behavior. Parents feel hesitant about saying no and disciplining. However, not drawing a line between appropriate and inappropriate does a great disservice to children. Teaching children to choose friends wisely is a difficult but essential lesson parents must be willing to teach their kids. Using discretion when choosing friends and picking friends with good character and high moral fiber, can keep kids on the right path and headed towards achieving their goal and dreams.
If parents want to instill good values, ethics and morals in their children, they need to have the courage to go against the social tide and teach their children how to judge and make choices based on the morals and values that they have been raised with. Perhaps most difficult, this includes making judgments about the right kinds of people to associate one’s self with, in order to surround oneself with strong influences and people with common, strong values. Teaching children to think critically and judge their circumstances gives kids a leg up in a world that is barraging them with information and temptations, some good and some not so good.