Check Your Judgement
with Penny Williams
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Intro (00:03): ADHD is not a character flaw. Autism is not a character flaw. These are beautiful human beings. They are warm, wonderful kids who struggle. They struggle with things that neuro-typical people don't struggle with. Welcome to the parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author ADHD, a highlight and mindset. Mama honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.
Penny Williams (00:52): Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. I want to talk to you today a little bit about judgment, and this is kind of a pet peeve of mine because we tend to be more judgmental of our kids than understanding. And of course, I'll go into some detail here and really describe what I mean by that. But this is a really important distinction that I think we don't consider very often as parents. And part of that is just because we grow up and we're socialized to consider parenting a certain way. You know, it might be the way that you were raised. It might be the opposite of the way you were raised. It could be different based on different cultures, different parts of the country, different relatives. It could be other adults that you've been around. Other people that you've watched parent it can come from so many different places, but what's really important is that when we have kids with ADHD or autism, we really have to be careful about the ways in which we identify behavior and talk about behavior.
Penny Williams (02:06): And I've talked about this some in other podcast episodes, of course, there is an episode on how important that the language we use to describe behavior is I will link up that episode in the show notes for you so that you can check that out as well. If you haven't already listened to that episode, it ties really nicely in with what we're talking about here today with judgment. And what I mean by judgment is let's just think about judgment for a minute. If I make an assumption about someone without knowing them based on their looks, the car, they drive something. They said to me, the tone of voice they might have used with me or with someone else. If I make an assumption about who they are, what they believe what their personality is like, that's a judgment. We're making a, of someone based on the bits and pieces that we think we are seeing.
Penny Williams (03:07): So often there's a leap, right? When we make a judgment, there's a leap from, I have this little bit of information to you. Wow. I know that person so well, and this is who they are. And we do the same thing to our kids, especially with challenging behavior, especially with challenging behavior. We use words like disrespectful, oppositional defiant, bossy, selfish, right? We tend to use those words to describe our kids' behavior. And the reason that those are so harmful is because their judgments of character. And when your child has ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, bipolar learning disabilities, excetera then what you're seeing with the challenging behavior has a root, other than character. It's not their character that you are describing or that you are judging, even though those judgements come out as though it's about their character, right? It's not necessarily that your child is disrespectful either they're dysregulated and they're having a hard time, or they may not be able to see that the way what they're saying or how they're acting is received.
Penny Williams (04:40): They just may not have an awareness of what it feels like on the receiving end. So, when you make a judgment like disrespectful, there has to be intention. There has to be an intention to be disrespectful. There has to be an intention to be oppositional and intention, to be defiant and intention to hurt you. And most of the time there is not that planned out intention. It's just a by-product of dysregulation and struggle. For instance, say your child has asked you for something you've had to say no, for some reason. And he or she is starting to really melt down. And when you look at just what that looks like on the surface, and you judge that behavior, then it very often links with a judgment of your child. So if I look at my child having a meltdown, because he couldn't have the cereal that he asked me for as a young child, I could say, wow, he's so selfish or, wow, he's so spoiled.
Penny Williams (05:57): You know? And, and what are those words? Those words are character judgments. They have nothing to do at all with what is going on with your child at that moment, nothing to do with it, because we know that behavior is a symptom behaviors. What we see on the surface that is triggered by something else underneath. So now when I look at my son and he's having a meltdown, because he couldn't choose the cereal that he wanted, or he couldn't have three boxes, which was typical when he was little, it wasn't that I didn't let him have it, but that he wanted it all and couldn't have it all. But anyway, if he's melting down, I could instead think, wow, he's having a hard time. And that opens a door, right? It opens a door to seeing the behavior in a different and more helpful way.
Penny Williams (06:51): It opens the door now to not be judgmental of your child or their personality or their character, but to say, what is the struggle here? How can I help him? Right. And then I'm thinking, okay, well maybe he was hungry or tired and I shouldn't have taken him to the store. Maybe he has poor frustration tolerance. And so he can't handle being told that he can't have some name because he just doesn't have the skills yet to handle it. Maybe he really just got fixated. You know, a lot of kids with ADHD or autism have a really narrow focus. And once they get something in their heads, that's really hard to get it out and they can also be in flexible. And that could be playing into that as well. So instead of saying, Oh my gosh, my kid is so spoiled. He's having a fit because he couldn't have three different kinds of cereal right now.
Penny Williams (07:54): Or I could say, wow, he's really having a hard time with us. I wonder what is causing it. I wonder how I can help him to get through this because he's struggling and it's not personal. And that's the other big piece as when we're judging behavior and we're using those sort of character judgments. We're not at all taking into account whether or not the behavior was personal. And that kind of ties in with intention, which we've just talked about. But you know, you have to step back and say, is my child meaning to hurt me? I mean, there were times when he was four or five or six in the grocery store, we would be in that cereal aisle. He would be in that meltdown and he would start screaming at the top of his lungs. You never loved me. I hate you, mama. You're the worst mom ever.
Penny Williams (08:53): Right? We've most of us been. And I could really take that personally. Right. I could really get upset about the fact that my kid thinks I don't love him and that he thinks I'm the worst mom ever. But if I'm able to take a breath and really remind myself not to take it personally, then I can be so much more factual in that moment. And I also don't get my feelings hurt because he doesn't mean any of that. I already know that my child loves me. I already know that he really thinks the world of me as his mom. And I already know that I do love him, whether he thinks so or not in that moment. Right. So if I'm not taking it personally, then I'm also more able to not judge the behavior. Instead, I'm already on that path of thinking he's having a hard time.
Penny Williams (09:49): How can I help him? Right. It's so easy for me to talk about it right now. And it's so difficult for you and was for me in those moments to really be able to separate all of this, to really tease apart my feelings of my emotions and what is truly going on under the surface. And it takes a lot of time and practice and mindfulness, but it's so important. Just think about, your child's struggling with something and saying to him or her you're being really disrespectful. Think about how that really feels for them in that moment. How does that feel to you? Imagine if you were a child and someone said to you, you're being disrespectful to me that doesn't feel good, right? It feels heavy and personal and shameful. But if we think about, well, buddy, I see that you're having a hard time.
Penny Williams (10:51): How can I help you? How does that feel different? I really want you to place yourself in a child's shoes and think about someone, an adult, who's an adult that you love and adore saying these two different things to you. One you're being disrespectful to me or to, I can see that you're struggling. How can I help you? Of course, they feel completely different to that child, right? How can I help you already says, wow, I see that you're having a hard time and I get it and I'm not mad. I just want to help you. I'm not judging you. I just want to help you. It makes such a huge, huge difference for our kids. It's from being, me versus you with disrespect or, Hey, I'm in your corner. I want to help you totally, totally different in the way that that is received.
Penny Williams (11:58): And then the way that it makes your child feel. And when they feel seen and heard the behavior is automatically going to improve somewhat, that meltdown is going to be shorter. Again, it just all boils down to judgment. I have for a while now for several years, really, especially driving down the road, this would really bother me. I'd be driving down the road, the kids in the car, and you know, I, or my husband, we would say something derogatory about another driver when maybe they cut us off, or it felt like they were being sort of selfish or rude driver, right. Or whatever. There are so many reasons why we judge other drivers. I'm sure you can all put yourselves in that situation if you drive as well. And what I realized one day is that's why I was teaching my kids. I was teaching my kids to judge people based on one action in one tiny snippet of time.
Penny Williams (13:01): And it pained me. It really, really bothered me. And so for years, since then, I have tried to be really careful about that. Now I may still think, something negative and judgmental and rude in my head when someone cuts me off and almost hits my car, but I'm not going to say it out loud because I don't want my kids to judge other people based on little things. They don't know them. I don't know that person who cut me off. I've been that person. I have accidentally cut people off in traffic before you probably have to. Does that make me a horrible person? No. And so that judgment there is really unfounded, but it's part of the way we're wired or something. You know, we're all pretty much that way. I think when, when we get frustrated or we get overly emotional anxiety plays into that when you're driving.
Penny Williams (14:00): Right. And I just really wanted to be very mindful of the message that I was sending my kids, that we don't judge other people without knowing them. And even if we know them, do we really need to judge? Or do we just say yes, this person should be part of my life or no, they shouldn't. Right. And I think it's even more important in this day and age with social media. Most of the people that we know on social media, we don't really know. I can't tell you how many hundreds of Facebook followers or Facebook friends I have. I don't really know those people. They connected with me on Facebook and we might have interacted. We might not have, and there's a lot of room. It seems like people feel like they have permission to judge and be more harsh online versus face-to-face or in person.
Penny Williams (14:55): And even then we really need to be careful about that. You know, even if you walk away from your child and then you talk to yourself in your head, or you talk to your partner or your spouse or a friend, and you say, wow, my son was so disrespectful to me today. You're still in that mindset. You're still judging. And you're judging character and ADHD is not a character flaw. Autism is not a character flaw. These are beautiful human beings. They are warm, wonderful kids who struggle. They struggle with things that neuro-typical people don't struggle with. And that struggle often unfortunately comes out in challenging behavior or in ways that feel rude or disrespectful or somehow, indicative of a negative or bad I'll use air quotes, bad personality, right. And our kids are not that there's a totally different explanation. Now this isn't to excuse behavior.
Penny Williams (16:04): I'm not saying, well, he has ADHD. So of course he's going to be rude and disrespectful. And it is what it is. Not at all. Yes. Our kids still need to be respectful to people. They still need to be kind and compassionate. We're not saying that we are removing that expectation. We're saying that we see what's driving the behavior that looks like rude and disrespect, but it's really not that because the intention wasn't there and because your child is not a disrespectful human being, right? Like those judgments, we just are defining people with those words. And we're defining, a whole person based on a few minutes or a few seconds of interaction. And so I really challenge you to be very, very careful that you're not judging the personality or the person that is your child. Be really, really careful of that because it does not just hurt them in the moment.
Penny Williams (17:18): It's really defining your relationship with them in a negative way. And it is really keeping you from being able to see them in a more clear light to really truly see and hear your child's truth. And that is the absolute most important piece. That is what guides us to help them create a life of success and joy. If we don't see them and see who they are and honor that, then we're just pushing back against who our kids are and we're making life so much harder for them and so much harder for ourselves. So keep that in mind as you go forward, watch the judgment I will too. Of course, this is for all of us and we're all human. And just really try to see that wonderful human being and that greatness that's in there and pull from that, get some strength and empowerment from that to handle the times when there's struggle and recognize that it struggle. And it's not personal. And to honor who your child truly is. I'll see you next.
Speaker 1 (18:39): Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.
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