Teaching your children to use their judgment can be imperative in keeping them safe in threatening situations. But it can also be a sharp tool used to cut people down, or even out of their lives. It's important to distinguish beneficial judgment from shear condescension, needling or overbearing correction.

Black and white

Teach your kids to see the world in shades of gray, not just black and white, good and bad or right and wrong. This will become easier as they get older because they will inevitably get into situations that are not all the way on one side of the fence or the other. When they can see themselves in shades of gray, they will see others this way as well.

Understanding life's circumstances

You may teach your child to live by certain values. For example, "people who have good things work for them." But even a simple axiom like this can become corrupted and take your kids down a slippery slope, turning a motivational slogan into something like, "people who don't have good things don't work for them," which just isn't true. Many people work very hard and still don't achieve or obtain what they work for. Life's circumstances can pull the rug out from under anyone, and your kids don't need to look down on anyone, no matter what they seem to have or lack. Try to cover your bases and show your kids both sides of the coin.

Compassion and empathy

Teach your children to see and feel things from an outside perspective. Decisions that don't make sense to them may make a lot of sense to someone in a different life circumstance - or who has a very different thought process. It may not excuse any detrimental or harmful decisions others make, but your children will at least understand why those decisions were made, and be a bit more gentle toward them.

Being right or being happy

Being right is not the apex of life. Teach your kids that there are way more important things to focus their attention on than being right. Like being happy, having friends, having family, love, respect, compassion and kindness. Being right is nice, but who says they're right, even when they are? They may turn out to be wrong at some point, in which case right-fighting is not only unnecessary but obsolete.

Open to change

Teach your kids to be open to change. Changing their minds, changing their hearts, and changing their lives. When they allow for evolution they will begin to see the many valid possibilities of life, love and interconnectedness. Not everything and everyone needs to mirror them, or reflect what they would do. And this makes the world beautiful and interesting. If we were all the same, the world would be pretty boring.

During one of my Spiritual Life Skills classes, a few people reluctantly raised their hands when I asked, "Who would rather be right than happy?" They were a little embarrassed to admit so, and chuckled about it. But I suspect many more people are truly more comforted by being right (and righteous) than being happy. I feel that this is because we as a society have what we think is a firmer grasp on right vs. wrong than on happy vs. unhappy. The problem is, how do we define right? And how do we know when we are? One of the first principles of Spiritual Life Skills that I teach is letting go of right and wrong, and good and bad. These are just words and their meanings change over time, and depending on who you ask. I tend to see things more in terms of helpful or harmful than anything else. And this could be physically, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise.

Remember, teaching your children to be less judgmental begins with you. Begin to take on these attitudes and incorporate them in your own life. Lead by example and show your kids how to be open to all the possibilities that they will encounter in the world. Teach them to use their judgment in a way that's helpful. Being condemning or condescending toward someone may or may not inspire change in them, but it will certainly bring you down if you make it a staple in your life. Focus on lifting people up. And teaching your children to do the same.

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