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Children: Nature versus Nurture

kiddies

Hello Beautiful people,

As most of you followers would know I have been a parent for nearly half my life, I have grown up whilst raising my own children. At times this has been difficult, however, difficult in ways different to what people often assume. Let me explain how. Most people say to me ‘oh you were so young when you had your children, that must have been so hard, you must have missed out on a lot in your life and how did you know what you were doing?” To this I always say “I’m educated, I work, I party, I have lived my life like all my friends and family have, just with a little more responsibility than most therefore I certainly don’t feel like I have missed out on anything!” As for knowing what I was doing, why do people assume that age impacts on your parenting, yes I have seen some young mothers that are clearly struggling emotionally and financially having a family but I have also seen many, many older first time mothers struggle drastically with the transition to motherhood!  It can be argued that the transition for older mothers can sometimes be harder because they have become so accustomed to being the centre of their own lives and then suddenly they are not.

So how did I know what I was doing with my babies when I was a young mum? Firstly I had a very supportive mother who shared all her parenting skills and knowledge with me. Secondly I armed myself with information from various books, pamphlets and journal articles on birth and parenting. I read as much as I could about becoming a parent and how to be a good parent. I wanted to be the best mother I could be and I wasn’t sure if I subscribed to the theory that being a mother was a natural instinct in women. Perhaps in some it is but at such a young age I wasn’t sure if I was one of those women that would just naturally know what to do, so I read. I read everything I could and deciphered through all the information and decided which tips, techniques and theories on parenting suited me and undertook to apply these skills in my parenting. Thirdly a wise beautiful Aboriginal woman I know, upon the birth of my daughter wrote on a card saying “congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter” “always remember these words, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE”……….. I thought long and hard about these words and often they ring true in my head and heart to this day. Unconditional love, what did it mean? My interpretation was that it meant that my love for this child and all my children should be a love given freely and without conditions…….That thought, that notion rang so true to my heart, it not only referred to my children’s behaviours but to everything about them. I would love them regardless of any disabilities, ailments, behavioural problems, developmental issues or personality traits that were challenging! I would love, protect and nurture them for as long as I could with unconditional love. A mothers love that would not set limits or expectations. That is to say the love I gave would always remain the same regardless of the situation. A mother doesn’t love her children any less if they misbehave or choose a different career path to what the mother hoped for them.

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Luckily for me it seems, it turned out I was a bit of a ‘natural’ born mother, I took to mothering like a duck to water! I handled years of sleepless nights, childhood illnesses and temper tantrums with a surprising element of ease. What I found hard unlike the assumptions of others was the attitude of others towards me. People are ageist and automatically assume that if you have had children at a young age that you must be uneducated and have missed out on so much in life. Incorrect in all my spare time at home with kiddies I have ALWAYS studied! The other few challenges have been financial, starting young doesn’t give you the time to set yourself up financially before the added expense of kids comes along. But even that hasn’t bothered me too much because I have seen older parents with tonnes of money wait so long to have children that they then have complications with getting pregnant or babies with health complications or remain career focused after they have children and the child gets little time with its parents, so each argument has its pros and cons.

At the end of the day I have lovely, healthy, happy well-adjusted children that have been and will be nurtured by me! My children know that I love them unconditionally and that under even the most stressful situations or temper tantrums that I will remain calm (as possible lol) and will listen to them and support them.

So the age-old debate of nature versus nurture always pops in to my mind when I reflect on how lucky I have been with being blessed with such lovely children. To me nature dictates genetic traits that my children possess such as their musical ability or their preference for sleeping over sport or more so the colour of their hair or eyes. However my preference for the belief that children are more of a product of how they are nurtured as opposed to what is natural/innate to them could also be refuted. Nurturing can also influence the same aspects of their lives, if I nurture them and allow them to sleep over encouraging them to get up and be active then its their environment and life routine that is shaping who they are and not some innate predisposition behind their preference to sleep!! I don’t believe that as a general rule children are ever born bad……with the exception of a very very small few! Children learn right from wrong from their care givers and their environment. It is not instinctive for them to behave badly however it is instinctive for them to explore every aspect of life and this often tests the boundaries. What is the point of getting angry at a child for wetting his pants if he is only learning how to toilet train. Children learn through POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AND REPETITION!! I’m not going to lie to you when I say if you don’t like the sound of your own voice and you don’t want to have to hear yourself say the same thing over and over and over again for the next twenty odd years then DON’T have kids!! I say “stop picking your nose” so frequently it has become a catch phrase in my house that I say with utter disdain!! Other than repetition the other tool I have found incredibly useful is positive reinforcement, not bribes, if the child is old enough explain the rewards and benefits of their good behaviour, if not simple age appropriate gestures such as clapping, smiling and best of all kind words and hugs!! All interactions with children should be age appropriate, yelling at a toddler for putting a fork in a power point is redundant!! They have no understanding why you are yelling and may even do it again just to get a reaction out of you. Solution, to protect your child and save your energy from stressing and freaking out is cover the accessible power point! All these parents that say don’t change your environment and/or lifestyle to suit your children give me the shits!! Ok don’t modify anything in your home and watch the accidents happen or don’t stop having regular house parties and see how you have unruly over-tired kids! Having children requires a lot of effort and planning and responsibility. And I’m certainly not saying wrap them in cotton wool because believe me my kids have been to the Emergency Department a lot more than some but never with accidents in the home. All the typical viral things and broken boys that happen with scooter and bike riding. Children deserve to have fun, healthy, active childhoods in which they feel safe and loved.

From all my time as a parent and a nurse at various, playgroups, daycare centres, preschools, primary schools, high schools and hospitals I have observed and interacted with lots of children and their parents.

Some of these children have such natural kind, placid personalities that you instantly connect with. Some are more unruly and its difficult to engage them. I am not unrealistic that parenting is not without its difficulties but I can honestly say that sadly too often the children that are more difficult in their behaviour are experiencing some sort of rejection or misunderstanding of their behaviour or emotions by their parents. The child acts out, over and over again to gain the parents attention, whether it be good or bad because what many parents seem to forget is that any attention is good attention to a child that is not getting their needs met. Example, I know a lady with twins beautiful girls who are lovely and well-behaved, their mother is aware that her life is not without challenges having two babies at the same time and yet for the most part she remains patient, loving and kind towards her children because she wanted them so much that she will love them unconditionally and protect them forever. This love and understanding of her children helps her to stay calm when they misbehave from time to time and although she will teach them right from wrong, she will never criticise or belittle them. This calm loving parenting is reflected in how well-behaved her twins are. Contrary to this lovely mother I knew another mother with two boys very close together in age, she too was a young mother like myself, and struggled to adjust to the transition of motherhood. I witnessed her out of frustration scream at her boys, slap them, put them in time out and on occasion belittle them. I felt terrible for her boys who just continued to misbehave. They would do everything to push her buttons, draw on walls, pee in corners, hit each other and for every action they undertook there was her reaction swiftly behind them. I tried as a peer parent, friend and nurse to talk to this mother that was struggling about using different strategies with her boys to try to break the cycle of stress and unhappiness in the household. She just cried and said nothing works and despite putting supports in place like playgroup and parenting groups she became dis-engaged and put the children in full-time childcare and spent less and less time with them. Years later I saw them as primary school aged children and noted sadly that none of their behaviour was any better, kids or mothers! It was the mixed messages that this mother was giving to her children that struck a chord with me the most. She would say to the older one “don’t hit your brother’ whilst giving him a massive slap on the backside, sure enough five minutes later he would walk over and hit his brother again! I joke with my children and say to them “do as I say not as I do” especially when it comes to my use of colourful language. However I am not unrealistic and know that children are sponges and admire and respect their primary caregivers no matter how they are behaving. So I may tell them not to do something but if I’m doing it myself then chances are eventually they will do it themselves too and I will have no-one to blame but myself. We can all live in a fairy tale world were we all have the total control of our kids and the final say in all their behaviours but that’s just unrealistic isn’t it! If I get embarrassed by my kids swearing  in public then I have no-one to blame but myself. I can explain to them why I feel the need to swear, how it’s generally frowned upon by society and how I wished they wouldn’t do it but if its something they are hearing all the time its going to be like second nature to them isn’t it! It’s all learnt behaviour!! I’m  pretty sure kids don’t just think, ‘I’m going to behave like a feral unruly animal today and fuck stuff up until my parents crack and lose it at me’. Their behaviour is often a product of their environment and age appropriate development!! Yes girls will be bitchy for a few years but if you ride with it don’t bother fighting back because what’s the point it’s probably a redundant argument about why can’t they shave their legs at the age of eleven?! And boys will be obsessed with body parts from now until forever, firstly their own and then other people’s as they get older. So it really isn’t worth sweating the small stuff because before you know it they are grown!

I get bewildered by these poor women who have these children that are just emulating behaviours that they see everyday and question why their kids are acting out. Recently in the Paediatric Emergency Department I looked after a young chap that had presented because he wasn’t feeling well. His mother had brought him in and it was decided he needed to stay for a few hours observation. It can be boring for a young child to sit in a hospital for hours so I let them sit in the play area, where he had access to lots of toys, books and television. I watched this child for several hours trash the playroom, throwing toys around with no regard for whether they got broken or not or whether he hurt someone with his missile projected toy. He spoke to his mother so rudely for a child his age I was astounded. His mother remained patient, quietly spoken, loving and kind and it bothered me so much that this child was so naughty for her for no apparent reason. I felt for the woman so I offered her a tea and she said “I’m fine thank you, my husband is on his way”. The boy continued to be defiant and obnoxious and refused to let me provide him with any nursing care, which isn’t unusual for frightened small children. He wasn’t frightened though he was angry and naughty and then his father arrived! Wow the old saying of ‘apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’! The dad was immediately abrupt about what the ‘hold up’ was at the hospital, question directed towards me and his wife. Obviously brushed his son aside when the child ran to him for a hug out of excitement upon seeing his dad. Ignored all the child’s attempts at gaining his father’s attention, sat impatiently taping his foot whispering hurriedly to his wife and then got up and brushed the child aside again when the child elected to sit on his father’s lap while I assessed him. This left the child distraught and completely unapproachable followed by a rampage of toy throwing. Toy throwing to which dad returned by chastising the child……. thus perpetuating the cycle of bad behaviour for attention…..and reinforcing any attention is good attention to a child not getting his needs met… All the while my heart bled for the mother who was trying her hardest to parent her child with obvious unconditional love and close to tears.

Parents, primary care givers, whoever they may be need to self reflect regularly on how their family is going. If things aren’t working then it may be time to reflect on why not, take some time out and try new techniques. Most often parents aren’t coping because they are at breaking point from exhaustion. A little time out and reflection on why they have children is useful and how can they get help if they need it! Children need to be wanted they need to have boundaries, routines, rules that make them feel safe and above all they need UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!! A true parent does not love their child any less if they display bad behaviour. Furthermore rewarding their bad behaviour with negative attention is superfluous!! Children need to be praised, encouraged and rewarded for positive behaviours and attitudes!! Positive reinforcement and education started from a young age instil a sense of self-pride and an ability to develop critical thinking skills. Skills that enable kids to differentiate between right and wrong and analyse actions and consequences!! Self pride promotes self-confidence and self-awareness and it is my experience that children with these qualities are often more in tune with other people’s self perceptions!! Teach your children to know who they are and to feel love and respect for themselves and this will in turn reflect in how they treat others!! A school bully once analysed will often confess immense self loathing….. And no child should feel like that… If the bully didn’t feel like that in the first place then they would not lash out and hurt others.

I recently read an article (which out of protest I will NOT post a link to) that stated that we are creating a generation of arrogant children that don,t believe that they can fail at anything…WTF… From what I see in society we are seeing generations of children too scared to aspire to anything, too afraid to be who they want to be!! With the pressures of social media sites, media itself and the fast paced modern technological world, children are finding it more difficult to be who they really are!! The incident rates of youth suicide, binge drinking, drug use, mental health issues from eating disorders to major depression has significantly risen over the last few decades……. So why should I not tell my children how amazing they are? If society and media keeps sending them the message that they are not good enough and that setting their goals and dreams too high may set them up for failure that they may not be equipped to deal with, I say to hell with that theory!!!! In life there will be ups and downs and they know that, they’ve got enough peers criticising them, enough teachers criticising them and enough media leading them to believe they are not good enough, then why should I not shower them with praise!! I chose to have them, they are my favourite people in the world I reserve the right to tell them how fabulous I think they are everyday!!!!

Unconditional love and nurturing children may just be enough to overcome the bad behaviours that parents, who are pushed to their limits, blame on the child’s nature or genetic pre-disposition……

Anyway at the end of the day, all I’m trying to say is, don’t have children if all you’re going to do is complain about them, belittle or ignore them!! There are so many wonderful loving people out there that would give anything to have children but can’t for whatever sad and frustrating reason so cherish and appreciate what you’ve got!! And realise that if your kid is a little bit of a prick it’s probably because you’re being a bit of a shit parent!! Often the traits people find challenging in their children are the traits they struggle to recognise or handle within themselves, like stubbornness……

It is not in a child’s nature to be deliberately naughty and so it is up to us to nurture them so they can learn right from wrong.

TO MY CHILDREN

I will love you

Because you deserve it

Protect you

Because you are vulnerable

Guide you

Because without guidance you may get lost

Inspire you

Because you deserve to have big dreams

Support you

Because even the strongest human will need support sometime

But most of all I will love you!!

With unconditional love, because, I chose you!!

And somewhere, somehow your tiny soul chose me too…..

Peace, Love and Happiness xoxoxoxox 🙂

Author:

Hi my name is Noosha, I'm a Registered Nurse working in a busy major teaching and trauma hospital in Sydney. I'm also a busy Mumma to SIX kiddies ranging from 22 down to three months old. I love my job, my family, my life and live to help people!! I love the beautiful people I've created and the beautiful people I've met or yet to meet throughout my life 😊❤️

2 thoughts on “Children: Nature versus Nurture

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