nature nurture


When raising children, if we take credit for their positive traits and wonderful accomplishments, then must we also take responsibility for the times they misbehave?

My husband and I raised two children. My first was easy. He slept well, ate well, smiled often and was even tempered. Everyone commented on what a fantastic mother I must be to have such a well-behaved child. I believed them, and judged the parents of poorly behaved children somewhat harshly. It all seemed so easy – I assumed they must be doing something wrong.

Three years later I had my second child. This one did not sleep well, hardly at all actually. He was a picky eater and threw frequent temper tantrums. People commented on my parenting skills, or lack thereof, both to me and behind my back. We stayed close to home most of the time to avoid making a scene in public.  Same parents, very different experiences. What worked with the first did not necessarily work with the next.  And of course, we blamed ourselves.

We sought help for our difficult second child through books, counselors and parenting programs. We learned children are born with a certain temperament and each kid needs to be parented differently. We also learned we did not cause the difficult behavior with our second, any more than we created the easy nature of the first. However, despite our children’s temperament being outside our control, we found the way we parented could make the problems better or worse. We made mistakes, forgave ourselves and tried to do better moving forward.

Whether you call it nature/nurture or genes/environment, both factors are important in determining how a child will turn out. The next time you see a mom struggling with an out-of-control child, give her a break, especially if you lucked out with easy children. That difficult child could easily have been yours.

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