Every experience lives inside us, like rooms in a castle. What also lives in us is our genetic makeup or Nature. We are not born clean slates to be molded. We are born with hard-wiring that is electrified by experience.
The debate whether we are more Nature than Nurture is a subject each generation of parents wrestles with when getting to know their child.
Nature is Wiring
When we lean toward Nature as the most significant identifier of who our child is, we say things like, “he was born that way,” or “I can’t do anything about that (behavior). She’s just like her father,” or, “I have no idea where that (behavior) comes from.”
With Nature, we can take credit and dismiss responsibility in one fell swoop, when it comes to our child’s successes and struggles. In doing so, we skirt around the emotional complexity that Nurture demands of us.
Nature is every parent’s fail-safe Go-to-Jail card.
We get to say things like:
- “My son is a natural at math.”
- “My daughter knows exactly what she wants to do with her life.”
- “He’s driven. It’s just who he is.”
It’s easier to manage Nature than it is to understand Nurture. Instead of figuring out emotions, we can hire a tutor, change schools, get on medication.
Fear of inadequacy makes Nature appealing. The thought we can “ruin” our child because we’re “not good-enough” at the Nurture part of parenting is an impossible burden, and swings many parents into the Nature camp.
Nurture is Personal
Nurture is how a parent cares for their child.
But what if you had a horrendous relationship with your parents and have no idea how to Nurture because you were not nurtured?
Nurture is relationship. Nature is genetics.
How often do you hear a parent reflect aloud about how well the Nurturing part of parenting is going.
- “He’s a defiant kid because I’m a critical parent.”
- “She’s anxious because I have high expectations and tell her not to bring home bad grades.”
- “She’s happy because she’s well-loved.”
The quality of well-being: self-esteem, self-worth, self-love, is how you measure Nurture. There is a feeling of Connection parents must trust. You know because you feel it. Whereas, with Nature, you know because you can see it.
Sidenote – Socrates says, as he did in Phaedrus, that people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves. Plato also alluded to the fact that understanding ‘thyself,’ would have a greater yielded factor of understanding the nature of a human being.
We Want to Know Ourselves
The nature/nurture debate is really about wanting to know who we are and who our children are.
We see nature and nurture at work in our kids every day.
When I was a kid, I waited until my parents fell asleep to sneak downstairs to reorganize the presents under the Christmas tree.
I care about the feel of things and it’s more than furniture and pillows, it’s the feel of family together.
My nature is to lead, but as a child, my parents were pre-occupied, so I stepped into that job.
My Nature (to lead) was influenced by Nurture (absence of leadership), which ultimately shaped my destiny. It’s why I’m a Therapeutic Parent Coach. It’s also why I leaned toward an authoritarian parenting style when I was a new parent.
We cannot make children who we want them to be. But with an abundance of Nurture, we can welcome and enhance their truest Nature.
This YouTube video of a 53-year-old man returning home to his father is a symphony of Nature and Nurture working together.
After many kisses, the father says to his son, “You need a shave.”
“I love you,” the son responds.
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