Teaching Children How To Judge Others

"When we do not know a person -- and also when we do -- we have to judge his size by the size and nature of his achievements, as compared with the achievements of others in his special line of business -- there is no other way."
- Mark Twain (Christian Science)

And he said: "Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."

He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"
A Boy Named Sue- Johnny Cash
Earlier this week another driver gave me the finger or maybe it was intended for some other driver. I am not really sure. What I do know is that my son saw it and told me that someone called me a bad word. I asked him what he was talking about and he told me that some man in a truck stuck his middle finger at me.

So I asked him if he knew what that meant and he said that it meant the other guy was saying " fuck you dad." I was about to ask him how he knew what the finger was and then I remembered that I had told him about. I wrote about it last year, but I don't remember where.

I told him that he was correct and then he asked me why I didn't yell back at him. I told him that I don't respond to every name or gesture and that since I hadn't seen it I wasn't sure if it really was directed at me.

He wanted to know why I would ignore that and we talked about what is worth spending time on and what isn't. I didn't tell him that sometimes ignoring someone is far more powerful than anything you can say. Silence is powerful, but that is a different post.

And like so many of our conversations this one zigged and zagged into a variety of related topics and wound up in a slightly different place that I can only describe as how to judge other people. Yep, I talked about judging other people.

Don't give me that nonsense about how only G-d can judge others because it is not real. We all judge other people. Right, wrong or indifferent we look at others and make decisions about who and what we think they are.

My job as a parent is to help provide some guidance and direction. It is my responsibility to look at the challenges that the kids face and if possible try to help them make the right choices. The hard part is that some of these challenges aren't simple yes or no, right or wrong situations. Some of them are more complex and require a more sophisticated approach.

And frankly judging people is a critical skill. They will spend their entire lives interacting with people. Friends, family, employers, colleagues etc. They have to have some tools that they can use to help determine whether the people they encounter are good or bad. They need to have some sense of how to evaluate the measure of a politician and a potential friend.

Not to mention that no matter how evolved society may become there will still be comments and assumptions made about people that are based upon their looks, religion, politics and affiliations in general.

I don't have one foolproof system. I can't say that I have found any magical way of helping to make these choices. All I have is the mantra, "judge people based upon their actions." Look at what they do and how. Are they kind or cruel? Do they act the same way all the time or does their behavior change based upon the situation.

While they are young there is more control and greater opportunity help provide the foundation for making good choices. There are children that I have tried to help steer them away from. I don't have a crystal ball. I can't say that these kids are necessarily bad but I can say that I see trouble down the road.

I worry when the kids run the house. I have serious concerns about parents who are incapable of discipline and I expect that in a few years they will be very sorry about the choices they have made. I don't have a crystal ball so I can't say for certain that bad things will happen but it is not hard to predict.

It is a rough road at times but when I signed up I agreed to ride the roller coaster the whole way through. With any luck we'll get through it without too many nicks, scrapes and bruises.


john cave osborne said...

"it means 'fuck you dad,'"


i wonder if the following opinion from me will surprise you w/ regard to judging others.

i TOTALLY agree. sanctimonious people have a habit of saying about someone "it's not for me to judge" while shaking their head. the implication is clear. they're not judging, but God (or whatever their belief system calls for) is and He agrees w/ me.

the truth is we make judgments every single day. i'm proud to say that in business as well as in life, i have what many (not just me) believe to be an extremely accurate radar. i'll give it 70% accuracy.

that, of course, means i'm wrong a good bit of the time. but it's not like i ever make bold statements about the situations / people i assess. i merely react the way my radar tells me.

i'm glad this is the case, and i'll be the first one to say -- YEAH, i judge things. not sanctimoniously, not in an ugly way, but in a way that I BELIEVE gives me the best chance to live this life as well as i can.

once again, good, thought-provoking stuff.

Jack Steiner said...

i wonder if the following opinion from me will surprise you w/ regard to judging others.

Nah.Based upon the interaction we have had with each other it makes perfect sense to me.

You can't have the kind of success you have had without developing some sort of process for determining who is worth spending time/energy on and who isn't.

What is that line that people use, oy yes, "judge of character." Damn, I should have included that in the post.

Anyhoo, if you don't judge someone's character than....

TempestBeauty said...

This is one of my biggest fears, Jack.

My son is only a year old, and yet I am terrified to see the day when he runs out with a friend that I know is bad news. I have no idea how to teach the lessons that I hope would instill not only a good judge of character, but also the ability to stay away from someone he judges to be on the wrong side of things.

I hope it comes in little lessons like the one you gave your son. I hope it happens in small moments that I can pass on my strength and integrity without knowing it. I hope I can lead by example, and worry less about my children and their choices - I hope they can learn to live like me.

Lovely post. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Jack Steiner said...

Hi TB,

I think that you'll find all sorts of ways to teach your son the things that he needs to know.

The big question is whether he listens. I knew more than my parents or so I thought so I often ignored their advice.

Not very smart, but sometimes that is how you learn.

Anonymous said...

So that's what I've been doing wrong! Now I guess I can tell people that I really DO know Jack....

Ben said...

Excellent post, I really like your writing style!

I'm dreading the day my son learns his first swear word!

Jack Steiner said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for coming by, I really appreciate it. Kids do a great job of keeping us on our toes.

Almost 20 years

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