Curiosity and Judgment

There is a wisdom of the head…and a wisdom of the heart.” – Charles Dickens

I came around the corner the other day to find my 6-year-old daughter lifting her 2-year-old brother and telling him, “If you want down, say ‘Down please.’“ Because there’s only about a 10 pound difference in weight between the two of them, it looked a little precarious.

The moment I gave birth to my second child, my oldest all of a sudden seemed so grown up. But every time I think of her as the “One who should know better” or my son as the “One who is too young to stick up for himself” I suffer from that lapse into judgment.

My meditation teacher once led a beautiful meditation about gratitude. In it she suggested that there are some things we can’t feel at the same time – like gratitude and greed. I think another pairing for me is judgment and curiosity. When I’m sitting in judgment, my curiosity is not available to me.

Of course my brain is just trying to make a fast assessment about what I need to do in a situation and so judgment serves the purpose of quick analysis. And my brain doesn’t only do this my kids but jumps to scan a homeless person for danger or to dismiss an apparently wealthy person as too busy to help.

Once I get past that quick assessment to check if anyone is in danger, I can remember to breathe in curiosity and compassion. Those two tools that almost always come up with a better and more creative response to whatever situation I find myself in.

 My compassion tells me my daughter is trying to figure out how to use her strength and knowledge to help her brother and that my son likes the attention most of the time. Once I figure out no one is getting hurt, I can sidestep my judgment and let them figure it out.

In my daughter’s quest to teach her brother some manners, she hasn’t quite thought to ask if he would like to be picked up before holding him hostage until he asks politely to get down. I’m curious how long it’s going to be until he figures that out.

28 thoughts on “Curiosity and Judgment

  1. Wynne, I loved this vignette with this caring older sister, soaking in the wisdom/lessons she learns from you. And then I remembered when my two sons with those ages (now they’re very close to your age). The older boy would never have given his younger brother advice on how to be released, and I’m pretty sure an older brother wouldn’t have been that thoughtful to a younger sister he had decided to pick up either! Hmm. 😊

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    1. I love this comment, Jane. Isn’t it interesting how they all come out different? And then we get to use our curiosity to see how best to coach them. And endlessly fascinating journey! So glad you add this to the conversation! Happy Monday, Jane!

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  2. I love how you are able to step back, and let them work through these things. I will share that I just saw this exact same scenario happen over the weekend, between my two great nieces (ages 3 and 9). How my niece (their mom) chose to handle it was to completely lose it and start yelling. It was a huge overreaction from a really tired mom. So, while I don’t want to judge her too harshly, I think that the way you handled it…calmly, rationally, with grace…allowing them to work it out (as there wasn’t a big danger risk) led to a better outcome for all parties involved. I really admire your parenting skills, Wynne! Have a blessed day 🙂

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    1. Thank you for such a kind comment, Grace. I think your observation about your niece reacting it from being overly tired is a really astute observation. It’s almost impossible (for me, at least) to get it right when I’m overly tired and it’s hard but imperative to do self-care as a mom. The more I parent, the more that I see saying less and listening more is almost always better. Actually, I think that about life in general…

      Hope you had a nice time with your family in spite of that scenario!

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  3. An astute observation. If I’m feeling judge-y, I’m not being curious. I also like your observation that Little Brother might need to be asked IF he wants to be picked up by Big Sister. There’s always a possibility that he isn’t going to say ‘yes’ and trouble will follow.

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  4. What an interesting observation – how curiousity and judgment often cancel each other out in our brain’s capacity and processes. I never thought of it that way before – but it makes so much sense.

    As parents, it is very understandable that we leap into judgment very quickly and out of necessity. But creating the space for curiosity and exploration can be beneficial to both parent and child.

    Happy Monday and short week!!!

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    1. Yes – it makes so much sense that we jump to judgment. But then, when we’ve determined the kid will survive being trapped in the cat crate, we can step back and tap into our curiosity for how they’ll solve it. Right, Ab? 😉

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  5. This reminds me of when my younger brother and I were kids, and I would give him piggyback rides. He liked “little kind”, which involved his legs wrapped around my waist, but I would always try to trick him into “big kind”, which involved putting him up on my shoulders. He hated “big kind”, which made me all the more motivated to try to trick him into it.

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  6. And the jewel in the crown of this Wynne-lesson-du-jour is the last paragraph. “In my daughter’s quest to teach her brother some manners, she hasn’t quite thought to ask if he would like to be picked up before holding him hostage until he asks politely to get down. I’m curious how long it’s going to be until he figures that out.” Perfect!

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  7. Sounds almost like a fight-or-flight reflex – scanning your environment to assess the situation and then formulating a proper response. And it’s all subconscious, like breathing or swallowing. The brain is an amazing thing!

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