Random thoughts: using good judgment

As working mothers we hope that we are always using good judgment in the decisions that we make – and the implications to our family in the short and long term.

As you know, I’ve made some recent decisions in my own life that have forever changed how I lead my life – and these changes will obviously have an impact on me and the kids in the shorter as well as longer term. I can only hope that I used good judgment when I had the ability to make a choice.  For example, scaling back at work, settling in a new community, trying to right-side my life on my terms…. All difficult choices that, at the time, were based upon critical thinking and judgement on my beliefs, my personal experience from the past, and thoughts on the potential implications to myself and my family.

image source:  warren-walker.com
Think back at different decisions in your own life.  Looking back, when have you used good judegment ? Bad judgment?

I believe it is important to teach kids early the importance of using good judgment. Of recognizing when they are faced in a situation where there are choices that need to be thought through and decisions made. We need to help them along in this learning… Help them hone in on the skills needed for decision making and exercising good judgment. We cannot always be there for them.  And we will not always be making decisions for them. They need to learn this on their own. They need to practice this and be faced with life situations and experiences where they can develop these skills – experiences of success and of failure. In the midst of drugs and peer pressure and the overwhelming need to fit in, teaching the importance of using good judgment is just a necessity.

I remember several years back being at a campsite with a family with children older than our own. One of the children came over and asked their mother if it was ok to play with the fire with the s’mores sticks the way that the other kids were doing. I was amazed and taken back when her response was “I’m not going to tell you what to do. You use your own judgment as to what to do. You know the fire and the smoke and the length of the stick and you use your own judgment. Don’t look at the other kids to give you that judgment. They are standing in a different spot than you and they have different sticks so you need to use your own judgment.”

I loved this conversation with her child. I was not expecting it. I was expecting a “NO”.  I vowed to myself that this would be a lesson that I would teach the kids. And in those words and in that “matter-of-fact” way.

This past weekend we had a great time with a new blow-up pool that I bought from Target. It was over 90 degrees and it pissed me off knowing that this same pool would be on deep discount in 2 weeks time, but I digress. I also bought Target-brand aerosol sunscreen. I promise that this is important to the story.

Many neighborhood kids had the benefit of playing in this pool over the weekend…. In fact 3 different families… But I digress, yet again.

On Sunday, we had only one other child with us. So, it was relatively relaxing. All was great until I went inside to make pudding as a snack…. Instant pudding no less. So seriously, I was gone for literally 5 minutes and during that time I also checked in on them from my office window to make sure that everyone was safe.

I came back outside to see a pool filled with white murky water

  • “What is this?”
  • “Sunscreen.”
  • “How did it get in here?”
  • “We sprayed it.”
  • “Are you kidding me???!?!?!? Who did this? Whose idea was this???? Does sunscreen belong in a pool???” … [Thinking to myself (*&^(*&^*(^)… )*(&^*&^(*&^)… ]

Needless to say, Big Bro was exiled to his room, the neighbor was sent home and instructed to tell his parents what happened, the pool was dumped out, pool time was over for ALL kids, and the blown up pool was shoved in my shed.

I let the rest of the day proceed with Big Bro in his room and the rest of the kids were angels, on purpose I believe.

Later that day, I brought all the kids together for a conversation. I talked about judgment and the importance of using good judgment. Big Bro asked “What us judgment?”  It’s the decisions you make in situations. It’s how you think things are going to happen if you make certain devious or do certain things or behave a certain way. For example, feeding Cocoa every day is using good judgment. Changing your clothes, underwear, and socks each day is good judgment. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables everyday is using good judgment.  But sometimes people, and kids, use bad judgment. Today, putting sunscreen in the pool was bad judgment. It is sooooooo important for each of you to try to use good judgment. And if you see someone using bad judgment around you, you have to speak up and say so.

Big Bro asked, “Well, what are we supposed to say?”

I told him that he can say that’s not ok. Or that he doesn’t think that’s a good idea. Or if it’s easier, just blame it on me “my mommy is going to be soooo mad”.

I looked at all the kids when I was explaining judgment. And looked at each of them when I described examples of good and bad judgment. And asked them if they understood. I think at 6, Big Bro gets it. I am not certain of Red, age 4. The 2 year old twins were there for completeness sake. I’m not sure they picked up on a thing. But sometimes Twin Crazy REALLY surprises me.

So that was the beginning of a life lesson on judgment. One that I will reinforce with each of them as time goes on. One that I myself and as an adult continuously question as well. Am I making decisions for myself and my family based upon good judgment? Is it truly good judgment or just what I believe to be good judgment? Am I rationalizing the choices I make or justifying them in any way?

I can point to PLENTY examples in my past where I KNOW I used poor judgment. Like the time I stole a Christmas tree from a college dorm lobby and shoved it in a shower stall.  Like the time I signed up for Debt Markets in my M.B.A. program, a course that I am convinced will never help me now or in the future.  Like the time I sold Starbucks stock in 1994 so I could earn a whooping $300 profit [ugggh, that one hurts].

But as time goes on, I like to think that I have more life experiences to draw from and inform decisions.  But I also know that 20 years from now (if I am lucky to have the opportunity 20 years from now), I will likely look back on my life in my 30s and 40s and question my judgment. This is part of living and life and growing. But it is important for me, for people, and for kids as little people, to understand and recognize that we have choices, our decisions have consequences, and it is important to try to use good judgment.

What situations have you faced with your kids on the value of using good judgment? How have you reinforced this concept? At what ages do kids really start to understand?

Thanks for listening –

– Mama K

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