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A Myth of Parenting

Parent and child laughing with baby

The most unhelpful myth of parenting that I encounter when I work with parents is the

quiet, understated belief that the goal of parenting is to produce incredible adults.

The problem with believing that parenting is about creating marvelous grown-ups is that we turn a relationship into a project. Our children are not projects, they are great mysteries to be appreciated and known. If any of you have been in a relationship of any kind where the other person had an agenda for you, felt like they knew better than you

what you needed, or tried hard to change you, then you know how it feels to be in a

relationship disguised as a project. There is something deep with our spirit that rises up

and fights back against this dynamic.

Martin Buber talked about this in his incredible book ‘I and Thou.’ Buber describes two

types of communication/relationships. One he calls ‘I-It’ and the other he calls ‘I-Thou.’

The I-it relationship is the kind of transactional relationship we might have with a piece

of equipment. It is a functional relationship between a subject and an object wholly

lacking in mutuality. The I-Thou relationship on the other hand is a wholly mutual

relationship involving a full experiencing of the other. It is the relating of subject to

subject. When parents become stressed and worried about the many catastrophic

possibilities for our children today, it can be easy to slip into categorizing our children,

analyzing how they are doing, judging their development and turn our relationship with

them into an I-It dialogue where our fears of the outcome drive the agenda for the


An I-it relationship views and analyzes the child in relationship to the “normal.”

Questions are generated to identify problems and endeavor to ‘fix’ the child. An I-Thou

relationship seeks to establish mutual connection and to nurture growth. It is the gift of

being known. I encourage parents to try and shift their focus from what is going wrong

to what is working and endeavor to create an environment in the home built on safety,

structure, support and love where the child is not created, but rather given the space to

become who they were truly meant to be.

I had a wise old friend once who, reflecting on his life late into his 70’s, told me he was

amazed at the incredible women his two daughters had become after they were grown

and had moved away to raise families of their own. He said to me “they are such

wonderful people, and to think how fortunate I was to have them live in my home for

those 18 years.” That reflection has always struck me as a most beautiful picture of the

true goal of parenting.

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