I feel that during the past few weeks of the presidential election, my daughter has been exposed to a lot of judgmental attitudes, words and actions. And that has got me thinking...
I have been observing the general response (or "reactions" to be more accurate) of people around me. Filled with anxiety, overwhelm and fears, we are all experiencing very valid emotions.
However, I have noticed that many of these emotions are automatically transforming into judgments and intolerance. Many of us are quick to judge each other for who we may be choosing to vote for. I recently heard that people were even booing each other at the election centers if they didn't share the same opinions about the nominees.
Through the many parenting and self-development books, as well as my own spiritual reads and beliefs, I have come to the conclusion that the opposite of "judgement" is curiosity.
When I create a judgement about someone, it is a result of my limited knowledge about the person, their environment and circumstances. Because with understanding, judgements evaporate and people and circumstance simply exist.
I am learning to slowly replace my auto-pilot, daily judgments with curiosity.
You may wonder, what that even looks like when you have a clear preference for who you wish to be the president of the United States. Well, to me this makes the entire experience a little less emotionally charged.
Curiosity focuses less on making remarks on the person's personality or character and more on understanding the reasons for the values that the other person stands for. Curiosity isn't quick to put another person down and instead wonders why a person would behave that way or act that way.
The other day I was running some errands with my daughter where one of the Presidential nominee tables was set up. A lady walked by saying word that were quite rude to the man at the table like "Shame on you... etc" while shaking her head with anger and disrespect. My daughter observed this. As my daughter and I walked by the table, he tried to hand me the papers as well. With curiosity, I was able to find a commonality between me and this man... the fact that this man behind this table is standing up for something he believes in. So, with a smile and kindness in my heart, I chose to simply say "No, thank you. Have a great day."
With my 5 year old daughter (as well as adults), it's as simple as "I agree with X-persons' values more. I also respect people who don't agree with me, because I am sure they have their reasons. We are all different and the same."
Judgement makes us emotionally attached to our preferences. While curiosity keeps our hearts open to accepting others' differences while feeling confident and strong in our own beliefs and values.
The basic fundamental rule of applying curiosity instead of judgement goes far beyond this presidential election... it goes into our homes and who we are deep within. It actually really guides me in parenting my little human.
For instance, when my daughter chooses not to share with her friends, I used to be reactive with her and create judgements such as "she is so selfish" "As a parent, I have failed in teaching her about sharing." However, now that I am actively trying to unlearn my judgmental ways and consciously replacing them with curiosity, I feel that my parenting is a lot more effective. I would love to share an experience I had along these lines...
The other day, my daughter refused to share her play-do with her friend. I automatically had a judgmental response by saying "if you don't share, your friends will not want to play with you." Although my response is true, my tone and the fact that I said it in front of her friend shamed her and made her feel guilty. So, she naturally responded with a tantrum.
A few minutes later, I reflected on the situation and replayed the entire experience with curiosity. And I realized that my daughter had every intention of sharing, but she seeked control. She had even said "I will share the play-do with you. I just want to keep it all on my side of the table."
So I went back to her during our play that day and asked if I can share with her something I realized. I told her "I am sorry I made you feel bad about not sharing. I think I made you feel like you don't have a kind heart. And I know you have a very kind heart. I also realized that you actually had a brilliant plan. You wanted to share the play-doh with her in a game in which you get to hand out the play-doh to her and she gets to design it. That's called being a leader. And great leaders try to make sure that their friends feel like you trust them. When you decided to put the play-doh on your side only, you made your friend feel like you don't trust her. Maybe what you can do next time is put the play-doh in the middle and tell your friend the rules of the game. I am sure she will trust you too."
This was life-changing for me because I saw her instantly apply her communication more clearly during her play with her friend on the next round.
Through the gift (and the skill) of curiosity, I was able to understand and see my daughter for who she is, free of any of my self-inflicted judgements and fears. And this served me in helping her be true to who she is by learning how to share in her own authentic way.
So, yes, in dealing with play-doh playdates and presidential elections - it all comes down to the same thing. How can we challenge ourselves to be respectfully curious versus emotionally judgmental?