Nature vs. Nurture


nature vs. nurtureI have raised three millennials, who are now well-adjusted, generally happy, and successful young adults, or so I’d like to think. And presently, I’m lucky enough to be raising a 16-year-old generation Z member. But after so many parenting years, my husband and I are still questioning our roles in shaping our kids’ personality traits, predispositions, and character.

Did we give them and teach them all the right things?

Nature took care of the physical part, totally not under our direct parental control. Our former and so revered pediatrician used always to say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” at each of my big kids’ yearly check-ups, when their height measurement landed them in a low percentile, save for one, in the average range. So, sorry to my 99.9% Italian kids, you were bound to be short, have brown hair, brown eyes, with upturned little noses! And that’s just peeling back the first layer, genetically speaking.

Besides the physical attributes we pass on to our offspring, there are certain personality traits that we so desperately hoped our kids would inherit, and some so elated that they didn’t. Nobody is perfect, not even Mommy or Daddy, but at least for the first five years of their lives, our kids think we are pretty amazing. 

From my experience, I think the start of formal school, even preschool, becomes the main source in revealing our childrens’ unique personalities. Deep down, we already know what makes them tick, but hearing it from an outsider is somehow reassuring

Generally speaking, girls are more responsible and diligent when it comes to schoolwork like my two were. Still, boys tend to need more supervision, especially with homework, like “I want to pull my hair out” kind of supervision when trying to get one of them to finish a science project assigned a month earlier!

This has to be a nature thing.

My bookends are sisters 19 years apart, and despite the obvious age difference, there’s also the huge generational gap because our younger daughter is only a click away from researching her fave American poet, not so much for her older sister, pre-internet days, but even so, they had one big thing in common, a sense of responsibility.

The schoolwork got done, one way or another, with minimal intervention, on my part. My boys developed that too eventually, but not till much later, by working hard and succeeding in their careers as adults. So, I guess the nagging did pay off? Or did they succeed by default because they chose the kind of work they were good at? It’s probably a little of both.

In addition to academics, the progress of a child’s social development is equally important and very much noted at school. One of my children struggled academically but was so well-liked by all teachers and kids that coming home with low grades didn’t define him as a “bad” student but accentuated that he was a good person. And as an adult, he thrives and relies on that personality trait at work. So far, it has served him well. And I’m pretty sure, growing up, we promoted and nurtured this feeling for my son by providing social settings outside of school, where he would socially excel.

But we still question ourselves, was it nature or nurture? Had we had provided more encouragement for academic success, would he have excelled in that too? And then his younger brother was almost the total opposite of him. He “naturally” absorbed more in school, academically speaking, and had the ability to land higher grades but chose not to. He was at his best when working alone, and if given a choice, would rather fly solo.

He even told me once, at six years old, that I shouldn’t be concerned about leaving him home alone if I needed to go out for a few! Now, did he take on the role of the minimally social sibling because his siblings loved being in the company of others so much? Or did he feel slightly left out because he was the middle child? Again, it’s probably a little of both. But his love of being alone served him well because he emerged as a computer whiz (and invaluable skill), all self-taught. 

Recently, I’ve been privileged to watch my grandsons grow up from birth. And I could clearly see personalities and predispositions emerging. My oldest grandson is a mini version of his dad. It is so evident, and perhaps, other people said the same thing when my kids were growing up. It’s just I was too busy raising them to truly see and understand what that meant.

In the end, what counts is that our kids are loved, and they’ve learned how to love back and be responsible, hard-working, caring individuals. It’s effective parenting, along with a mix of both nature AND nurture, that makes that possible!

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Fran was born, raised, married, and still lives in Mount Kisco, NY. She has 4 kids, including a teenage daughter, and two precious grandsons, whom she babysits a couple days a week. She also works part time as an accounting clerk, helps run her husband’s excavation business, and lastly aspires to one day finish writing her book. Despite her crazy, busy schedule, she cooks almost every night for her big family, and tries her best to keep up with the dishes! She truly believes spontaneity is the spice of life, and sometimes the very unexpected happens, but it’s usually all for the best. Enjoy her many tales of raising kids over the course of 20 years, what an amazing journey!