Is it Nature Or Nurture? I Experiment On My Kids


Before I had kids I was intrigued by the nature v. nurture debate.

I felt quite sure that nurture had a lot to do with how kids were.

That parents and the people around them could affect the outcome of their offspring and if those children were beastly, it was THEIR PARENT’S FAULT!!

(I’m sure there was a lot of furious finger pointing and wagging going on now I come to think of it.)

I was absolutely, positively sure I was right.

And then.

I had kids.

As you know, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than a couple of days, I have twins:

They are ten.

They are boys.

They were born just two minutes apart.

They come from the same gene pool.

Experienced the same pre-natal environment.

And the same learn-as-you-go parenting.

They are compleeeeetely different.

One is an outgoing, cheeky, artistic, readaholic.

The other is a quieter, more cerebral, analytical, engineer type.

And they have always been like this. From birth. My outgoing, artistic child got so fed up in the nice, cosy, warm place I was taking such care to provide him, that he wanted out. My little engineer who was perfectly happy to stay put, entertaining himself much as he does now, struggled, even though he was much bigger and stronger than his brother.

These differences have been a challenge at times.

When they were little, we spent hardly any time on the weekends as a family because we couldn’t take them to the same places.

If we took them to a model railway show, one of them would stand for hours looking underneath all the workings to see how it was done, the other would be getting cuffed for touching the layouts by some overweight, Grizzly Adams in a dirty T-shirt.

As such though, I have the perfect laboratory conditions for undertaking experiments.

And I can tell you, quite solemnly and quite certainly.

There is no such thing as nurture.

I have come to the conclusion that the whole debate is a ruse to make us parents feel we have power, influence, and control over how our children turn out.

Because let’s face it, how they turn out is like getting a gold star. It’s a stamp of approval, a mark of acceptance, a badge that we can hold up and shout (sounds of a drum roll, cymbals crashing, please.)

Am. A. Superstar!

Or Not.

But, I digress.

There might be something to this nature or nurture thing.

But I’m quite sure it’s not a 50/50 split. Or even 60/40 in our case.

Over the years, I have experimented with parenting techniques and different environments for each boy. Rewards will work for one, consequences work better for the other. Routines for one, deadlines for the other. Activities with lots of touching, pressing and moving for one, lectures, observation and reflection for the other.

I’ve learned this the hard way, by reading, brainstorming, hypothesizing, testing and  observing. Parenting by scientific method.

And while it’s been exhausting and a logistical challenge at times, I am also here to say, it gets easier as they get older. It goes back to James Lehman’s mantra – parent the child you have.

But when they’re young?

Thank goodness for two parents, I say.

Deep pockets help, too.

If you like this post, please don’t be shy, tweet or share it. You never know who might benefit or be entertained by it. There are ‘Like’ and sharing buttons at the top and bottom of this post.

I am participating in a Blog Every Day For 30 Days Challenge advocated by Chris Brogan. I am doing this with the lovely Mary Ulrich who writes for Parents and Caregivers of Adults with Disabilities at Climbing Every Mountain. Check her out!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn September 23, 2010 at 3:46 am

I have often thought nature had more to do with it than nurture since I see so many people who have two children who turn out completely different, one good, one not so good.

I think this is why so many fail at school, since schools have a ‘one size fits all’ method of teaching.


Alison Golden September 23, 2010 at 8:49 am

Hi Dawn:

We are very lucky in that we have a progressive charter school locally. Regular school didn’t work out for us at all. Plus we homeschooled for a couple of years.

And while we need to strive be the best parents we can be (and the best parents our kids need us to be,) I also think we need to give ourselves a break sometimes and accept that some kids are more high maintenance than others, just naturally.

Thank you for stopping by! 🙂


Mary E. Ulrich
September 23, 2010 at 9:43 am

Parenting is the hardest job. Alison, you must be doing a lot of things right to know your sons’ likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and their learning styles so well.

As long as you are loving and communication with them, the whole nature/nurture argument is not important.

Bet you’re a great Mom. Feel good about what you are doing.
Mary E. Ulrich recently posted..“Every Day for 30 Days” Blogging Challenge or IBPMy Profile


Alison Golden September 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

You’re not wrong, there, Mary. It is hard at times, as you, especially, know.

I find it so interesting that society generally seeks to blame all the ills of our kids on poor parenting when in fact, some kids are just harder than others to manage.


Kate September 23, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Thanks for the kind comment on my blog. Loved this post. As the mom of 3 adult children I can say…nurture…..nurture is a tool to guilt parents. Children are born with their personalities. You are right on in saying ‘parent the children you have’.
I am an exercise fan..some say fanatic. I try to do something for an hour every day. Never done T-Tapp. Looks like it works for you. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing
Kate recently posted..fair play- bite this!My Profile


Alison Golden September 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

Hi Kate:

Thanks for stopping by! And thank you for giving your perspective as a seasoned parent. It’s good to hear that we’re not always the useless parents society tells us we are when we’re dealing with challenges to with our kids.

I’ve upped the time quotient on my exercise to an hour a day. Still fifteen minutes of T-Tapp plus some walking and exercising. Does that make me a fanatic? Hmmmm, not sure.


Minnesota Mamaleh September 25, 2010 at 8:10 pm

awesome post. my fave part? the difference in kid and parenting perceptions pre- and post-kids! so, so-very-true! i found you through mommybloggers and am so glad that i did! 🙂


Alison Golden September 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Hey Galit,

Thank you! Yes, lots of finger wagging and head shaking. I knew my subject through and through. Not. 🙂


Cathy Presland
March 23, 2011 at 3:43 am

Yep totally agree – I hae two boys as well and completely different – being a parent really knocks that nurture argument out of the ballpark!

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Tara May 21, 2011 at 7:00 am

It might seem strange that I’m suggesting this, but you might enjoy this book. He argues that parenting is almost all nature and so we should relax as parents and actually have MORE of them (and gives interesting arguments for THAT too). I don’t agree with all he presents and he ignores a lot of research that shows the role nurture DOES play. But I am a big proponent of balance in parenting and how we approach it and this book definitely offers that.


Alison Golden May 23, 2011 at 9:01 am

Most of the child psychologists I know (and I’ve got to know quite a few in my time 😉 ) will say that the nature/nurture split is far more than 50/50. More like 60/40 and my (unscientific) experience would suggest a 75/25 split. I like reading parenting books from outside the mainstream so thank you for recommending that book, Tara.


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