Solving the age old nature vs. nurture debate isn’t hard. All you have to do is have three kids. My kids have been formed from the same DNA pool. I am raising an optimist and a pessimist. Abstract, creative and big ideas are whirling inside one my child’s head. Another is a more concrete thinker. I have a child who is compliant and easy. A future lawyer also lives within our walls. These kids have the same parents. They are in the same environment. Yet, the three of my kids vary dramatically. What the parenting experience is like for individuals also varies dramatically. It is one of the big reasons why I encourage moms to not judge other moms.
Solving the Age Old Nature vs. Nurture Debate
Parenting hasn’t come easy to me. I talk about it more in my articles titled “I Have Everything I Ever Wanted, Why Am I So Unhappy?” and “I Lost Myself When I Became a Mom.” As I have struggled, I have reached out to mentors who have gone before. I look for parents who I respect and whose philosophies line up with my own. I also look for parents who have experienced success with their own kids. I have been blessed by my mentors, the Pritchards of Axis Ministires, who are raising 11 kids. I have other families I admire and reach out to also.
One such family we asked the question, “What do you do when your child…?” Their response was, “None of my kids have ever tried that.” I can describe to you other incidents and other friends with the same response. “My kid just doesn’t do that.” You know what? Two of my kids don’t do that either.
In blogging, I share articles about parenting and some of the responses online are, “My kids were just so easy,” or “All you have to do is lay down the law and be the parent, and your kids will obey.” They truth is YOUR kids may have responded that way. Some kids you look at sideways, and they fall in line. There are other children, however, who are more challenging to figure out and may not respond to discipline in the way you anticipated. I observe it in families.
I also see it within my own family, which is why I know it’s not just an environmental thing – it’s a personality thing. One kid would never imagine drawing all over their arm, while another might do it daily. Another child might be honest and the other might be sneaky. One child might be super easy to raise while another might provide opportunities for the parents to be refined. When raising a child with special needs, this contrast can be even more dramatic.
Nature plays an enormous role in a child.
So Why is Nurture so Important?
While I have just argued that nature has a huge impact on your your child, I absolutely would contend that nurture is extremely important as well. Just look at some of these statistics, which only scratch the surface about the impact parenting has on a child:
- As noted by leading brain expert John Medina in Brain Rules for Babies (affiliate link), the parents who end up with the most functioning kids are those that are both warm and in control – they are called authoritative parents (don’t confuse that with authoritarian parents).
- Business Insider notes that kids who are successful have parents who assign chores, teach social skills, have high expectations and have healthy relationships with one another, among other things.
- An article in Huffington Post states, “According to a number of reports issued by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University(CASA), children who eat at least five times a week with their family are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and substance dependencies, and tend to perform better academically than their peers who frequently eat alone or away from home.”
- There are many statistics found at Fathers about the importance of a dad in a child’s life. Here is one of them: “A study of 1,977 children age 3 and older living with a residential father or father figure found that children living with married biological parents had significantly fewer externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems than children living with at least one non-biological parent.”
- “Another study, published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, reports that the effort put forth by parents (reading stories aloud, meeting with teachers) has a bigger impact on their children’s educational achievement than the effort expended by either teachers or the students themselves.” – Time
In Brain Rules for Babies (affiliate link), by John Medina, this leading brain specialist talks about how some kids are born with what scientists affectionately call “the happy gene.” I think one of my kids has that. It is why you see some kids thrive despite an environment that might typically yield a child who struggles with their own depression, addictions, and inability to contribute to society in a positive way. There are kids who can thrive despite their situation because of genetics.
For other kids, especially those more vulnerable to struggle, the home environment plays an essential part of their ability to prosper.
Solving the Age Old Nature vs. Nurture Debate
Solving the Age Old Nature vs. Nurture Debate is simple. There is a balance. Your child was fearfully and wonderfully made with their own unique personality, struggles, gifts and talents. This is engrained. Some children will be easier to raise. Others will constantly push the boundaries, and will definitely help you grow as a parent as you develop even more parenting strategies and tools.
I encourage you to humbly recognize that fact as you observe other parents. Know that some kids are just more difficult. You might have easy kids who were fairly typical to raise. Others might be dealing with more complicated situations and personalities in their home. These parents are challenged to work 10x harder as they work to do well as a mom or dad.
Despite our child’s innate and unique temperament and sin tendencies, what you do within the home absolutely has a huge impact on your child.Embracing their gifts and growing those is essential. Teaching through the more difficult personality traits is also key.
We need to do the best we can with the information we have. Do not give up if you have a child with whom you struggle. Your parenting can and does have a huge impact. This does need to come with a balance, knowing that at some point your child needs to take personal responsibility for their behavior. Pair this with our need as parents to let go of control, trust God and let them fall down and get back up again on their own. When to do that takes prayer, good information and good intuition.
This parenting thing isn’t always easy, but what you do with all the personalities you are raising is extremely important. You won’t change your child’s genetics, but you will teach them self-control, grace, respect and diligence within their temperaments. Keep persevering, and recognize that everyone’s journey through motherhood and fatherhood is unique. Be good to one another.