Nature versus Nurture is a huge topic in parenting and not one that can be covered quickly, but it comes up so often as a cause and effect of many behaviours and quirks in our children it is worth thinking about.
The premise of the debate is whether behaviours and personalities of our children are more influenced by genetics or their environment?
If you have more than one child, you will have seen this debate first hand. As a parent, we often question whether a character trait that is displayed – good or bad – is as a result of the way we have interacted with our child or if it is inherent in their nature. If your child is good at sport, was he or she born that way or is it because we took them to soccer every Saturday morning? If your child is doing well at school, is it because he or she has had good teachers, you taught them early on or were they born with academic ability? The list goes on and on.
I believe that our children are born with their traits. We can modify them with the way we nurture our children and influence them through shaping habits, values, education, exposure to new and different situations, but ultimately they will be who they were destined to be when they were born.
Think about each of your children, how have you modified their behaviour?
One of my children is terribly messy. Despite class action against her, she still is happy to live in a room with things all over the floor, her bed unmade, her clothes not put away. One of my children is really good at the guitar. My husband played the guitar and he is doing guitar lessons, but his guitar teacher is constantly amazed between lessons that he has taught himself how to play the chords and songs she sets. He is not flexible in his body and not terribly interested in sport – despite taking him to soccer every Saturday morning and swimming once a week. These traits are inherent.
Our job as a parent is to recognize the abilities of our children and nurture them.
We then have to choose our battles with the identified behaviours that don’t fit in with our preconceived idea of our children. My eldest daughter is not a morning person – neither am I. The first hour of the day is when our conflicts mostly occurs and we both know this (as does the rest of the house and neighbours!). This is definitely genetics, but we need to put a plan in place to influence the behaviours that play out in the first hour of our day. It is a project we are both aware of and working on.
I am not saying that if your child can’t read or has given up on their school work, that is OK and you just put it down to genetics. There are many resources to help children to read and they will be able to with a varying degree of ability. If they have given up on their school work, the environmental influences have probably played a bigger role. Your job is to find out what role that has played and work on it.
The place I work, the factors of nature versus nurture are heightened. I get to talk to a lot of people who are homeless, drug addicted or have a mental illness and both nature and nurture have played a huge role in shaping who they are. Their upbringing has may have contributed to the circumstances of they find themselves today. Role models, or lack there of, also went towards creating the habits their habits. But genetics also played a role.
With young children, now is the time to be recognizing the genetic factors verses the environmental influences that shape your children and plan and act accordingly.