How to Help Children Let Go of Judging Others

How to Help Children Let Go of Judging Others

After seeing a UPower presentation, young people often share their thoughts and struggles with me in person and then later through social media and emails.

One recent message I received stood out:

Hi Sara! I’m Alex, I don’t know if you remember me but I said “I Matter” into the microphone when you visited my school. During 2018 I wanna get over judging people by their looks because I know that I feel ashamed when someone does it to me. So, when I try to stop judging people, my mind just automatically starts doing it. How do I stop it?

The judgments young people are making about themselves and others are shaping their beliefs about what is right or wrong about appearance, clothing, preferences, relationships, backgrounds and even cultures. Unfortunately, adults are also doing it.

As Alex astutely pointed out, feeling judged brings up the emotion of shame. Shame is the belief that we are flawed, unworthy of love and belonging based on something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do, and that we are unworthy of acceptance and connection.

Developing healthy self-esteem and confidence relies on the ability to be accepting and compassionate of oneself and others for all our imperfections. Sounds simple enough but we know it isn’t easy!

Creating Healthy Dialogue About Judgments

When talking to young people about judgments I make the distinction that some are useful. For example, when you are assessing whether a situation is dangerous or not, making a judgment based on a hunch or gut feeling is a good thing.

However, judgments, when made thoughtlessly and habitually, can develop into hurtful, harmful and unfair biases.

As Taylor found, when we try to simply give up judgments, it can be difficult. We need to build habits to replace the judgmental behaviour.

Here’s 4 steps that I use when I catch myself judging others.

1. Be Aware

Because we need our judgment, the key is catching the times when we are judging ourselves or others unfairly and harshly.

everyone is different

When this happens, examine why you are judging. Are you in a potentially unsafe situation? Or are you making a judgment from one of the following places:

  • Thinking you know better or that you are right
  • Emotions like jealousy, angry, uncomfortable, awkward
  • Trying to fit in with others or trying to impress others
  • Assumptions based on appearance, culture, friends etc.

Sometimes we judge others when we have an opinion or experience that we think is better. When someone else is doing something differently or not at the standard we think is best, we judge them.When you catch yourself doing this, remind yourself that everyone is different – that there are many different perspectives and ways of doing something.

2. Put Yourself In Their Shoes

It can be really easy to jump to conclusions about people without knowing their perspective. Give people the benefit of the doubt because you really don’t know what is going on in their life.

This reminds me of the following story:

‘A man was letting his kids run wild and upsetting everyone on the subway. He seemed oblivious. Finally, someone couldn’t stand it and asked the Dad to do something about it. Dad looked up to the kids and then said, “My wife just died an hour ago in the hospital. I guess the kids don’t know how to handle it either.”

When I am about to make a judgment I think of this story and remind myself to take a moment to put myself in the other person’s shoes. What don’t you know about them? How do you think they are feeling?

3.  Focus on Your UPower Thought

Once you have become aware of your judgments, the thoughts you choose to replace them with are important. You need to replace them with something positive and powerful like a UPower Thought which comes from a choice you have made from the character traits you want to be known for.

My UPower Thought is ‘I choose to respect myself and others.’

Here’s how to create yours:

  1. Start with the words ‘I choose ____’ and fill in the blank with a character trait you want to work on.
  2. Whenever you notice yourself judging, replace it with your UPower Thought.
    For me, I say to myself, “Does the choice I’m about to make show respect?” Ask the same question using Your UPower Thought.
  3. Keep With It! The more you read it, think it and say it – the more your brain will believe it and make choices from it.

4. Bring The Focus Back To You

Have you ever noticed as soon as you start feeling grumpy you find a lot of things to complain about? That’s because negativity grows like a weed.

If you are feeling insecure, unhappy or not good enough, it’s easy to fall into negative thoughts about others. On the other hand, if you are feeling content with who you are, you are less likely to judge others.

When you find yourself judging others, it is a good time to reflect on what you could be doing to build your own happiness, confidence, and self esteem.

Take the time to write in your journal about the emotions you are feeling. Keeping a journal is a great way to examine your thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment.

As you write openly and honestly, you may find yourself judging your own thoughts. Take a breath. Then allow yourself to be honest with your thoughts. It can help you clear your mind and clarify what is going on for you.

If you or your child aren’t sure where to start with journaling check out these resources:

  1. The Remarkable Impact of Journaling on the Mental Health of Young People
  2. The UPower Journal – full of stories, exercises, and quotes to guide the journaling process

Remembering that judging others does not define them, it defines me, helps me move through my judgments quickly!

Until next time,