Parenting and becoming Human: “To parent well, one has to gain an understanding of what ‘human’ really is… and even then, knowing it and doing it well are not automatic.” – Johwa Choi

I talked to my teacher about the great responsibility that comes with parenting.  I asked him questions for discussion, such as:

How should we raise our children to give them the best possible start in their lives?

How should we fulfill our role as parents so as to lay a strong foundation for our children: in which they will develop from to cultivate emotional and spiritual well-being and be able to foster meaningful relationships and professions?

Since children are the future, is it in our hands, by way of parenting, to determine our collective future and that of coming generations?

My teacher’s response opened up a completely new perspective on parenting for me.  He indicated that parenting actually represents the first step in the process of humanization. Growing-up under the guidance of our parents is the first experience for everybody in becoming human. To parent well, one has to gain an understanding of what ‘human’ really is… and even then, knowing it and doing it well are not automatic.

What do we teach children so to become truly human and live fulfilled lives?

It’s clear to me and maybe to you as well, that as humans, a fulfilling life goes beyond satisfying basic physical needs like shelter, clothing, and food.  After all, even animals teach their young such survival skills to address these necessities.

So, what is the essence of being human and what are the virtues that constitute humanity?

How do we teach growing children humanity and human virtues?

There is a lot of helpful literature for parents like the chapter ‘Kids and parents’ in Professor Stuart Diamonds’ ‘Getting more.’. Other popular readings are: ‘No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind’ or ‘Negotiation generation.’  They provide helpful information on how to negotiate with your child and take their needs seriously, but their message remains limited, in my opinion.  By negotiating well with your children they in turn, will develop negotiation skills through their interactions with you.

Is something missing there?

My teacher provided surprising insight into this question.  He stated, “It is you!”

If you are just using a method or technique to deal with your child, she or he will develop analytical skills as a rational thinker, but not necessarily as a person and human.  By just being there for your child and not thinking primarily about goals or problem solving, per se, will make a heartier impact, overall.  Being there and being supportive unconditionally, uncovers unconditional love and understanding and shows them what being fully present is.

This approach being described above represents a paradigm shift for me and maybe for you too, that allows us as parents to learn from our children. Through being open for interactive and reciprocating growth, we not only prime acceptance by our children for it, but we also deepen the humanization process, throughout. Ultimately, parenting can stimulate learning and growing ourselves continuously together with our children, for them and for ourselves.  Eventually, this becomes a self-sustaining process, in which the growth of us and our children becomes indistinguishable.  It becomes one and the same.

While being result and goal oriented can cause growth intellectually, that alone does not guarantee humane growth or humane behavior and could somehow cause conflicts and suffering in the long run.  To prepare children well for life, it is necessary to keep our humanity and to continually humanize ourselves and our children.  That is what should be most fundamental.  So parents need to confront their own humanity and what defines it.  By developing ourselves consistently and living according to our own standards, we can be powerful and credible role models.  Let’s be there, present for our children, for their and our own humanization, and for the future of human kind.

Literature and additional references:

  • Getting more. How to negotiate to achieve your goals in the real world. 2010. Stuart Diamond
  • No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. 2014. Daniel J. Siegel
  • Negotiation Generation. 2007. Lynne Reeves Griffin
  • Harmony Meditation: From well-being to well-dying. A new way to completion. 2013. 2014. Johwa Choi.
  • The Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base Concept: “Humanization is (…) recognizing the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”


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