Don’t Take Anything Personally
Last week, I introduced the application of don Miguel Ruiz’ book The Four Agreements to our work of raising children. Today, I would like to think about the Second Agreement, “Don’t take anything personally,” as it applies to the lives of parents.
The parenting blog “Momastery” recently posted a mother’s experience of sitting in the food court at a mall, feeding her disheveled children junk food, when a well-dressed woman arrived with her daughter. The little girl sat quietly as her mother tenderly fed her an avocado she had brought from home, shaming the junk food mom.
“She was feeding her child an avocado AT ME!” she moaned. The blogger sensed judgment from this mom who seemed to be doing everything right. But as I read her words, I sensed something else.
The avocado-feeding mother is doing what she must do from the pressures in her own life. She may feel that she must be perfect in order to deserve this child. She may feel the need to prove that she can be a good parent. Parents make decisions about child-rearing based on their OWN needs, ideas, hopes and fears, not “AT” anybody else.
The assumption that others target us with their personal choices is egotistical and counterproductive. Examining our own motivations for our parenting practices will remind us why parents do what we do.
Refusing to take anything personally frees us from the burden of sensing judgment when our friends raise their children differently. It safeguards our relationships with other parents when we can stop reading their choices as indictments against our own.
This perspective also helps us understand our children with greater clarity. When our kids misbehave, we assume it’s because our discipline tactic isn’t working or they’re trying to sabotage us, rather than considering that the cause may lie in their own developmental agenda or personal temperament.
Choosing not to take anything personally provides children an example of adults who are confident in their own independent thinking rather than living in response to the judgment of others. Maybe our children can grow up with constitutions strong enough to protect them from taking things too personally.