The (Ever Shifting) Goal of Parenthood
My wife gave birth to our daughter on March 30th of this past year, 2012. Like any expectant father, naturally I was nervous about what the future had in store for me. Would the sleepless nights of the first few months be too much for me to bear? Will she be born healthy? How will we cope financially? You’ll notice that all these questions are about things that are relatively out of my control. Whether or not our daughter would be a baby who enjoyed being up all hours of the night or not could go either way. While we could take the obvious safety measures to ensure our baby being born healthy (no drinking, smoking, or ridiculously strenuous behavior for mama), the risk of some birth defect or genetic predisposition to one condition or another is also a largely a matter of chance. So too, go finances. If she is healthy, we’d be ok. If she requires extensive special care, or one of us loses our jobs, we’d be in trouble. These things happen, and you largely can’t plan for them.
And so it is with certain aspects of your child’s behavior. Anyone with more than one child can tell you that each child comes into the world with their own unique set of behavioral characteristics. Two children, raised in the same home with the same parents, rarely turn out exactly alike. Some have argued that this is due to the relationship between siblings (one consciously adopting the opposite behavior of the other in a desire to individualize themselves), but most parents can tell you that these behavioral differences manifest themselves before the children are even old enough to form a coherent self image.
I am in danger of heading into the “nature vs. nurture” debate, but science has come to show that this is a false dilemma, and it does not have to be one or the other. The truth is, we are a product of our genes and environment (nature) and our upbringing (nurture). I am finally inching toward the point of this blog. Your children are, largely, the way they are. This is not to say you don’t have any influence, you most certainly do. When your child smacks another child in the face, or pulls hair, strict negative reinforcement can curb this behavior. When your child does something well, positive reinforcement can encourage a repeat of this behavior. While you may curb the negative behavior with strict consequences, the chances of you ever curbing the URGE to the negative behavior are slim to none. Rowdy children are rowdy, quiet children are quiet, and polite children are polite.
Since I can already hear the chorus of “so it doesn’t matter how I treat my child?”, I will choose here to end this blog, and leave you in suspense, waiting for the next blog entry to see how I respond to this allegation and explain my view on what exactly a parent’s role is. Many thanks for reading!
Steve Dandrea is 31 years old and lives in Westminster, CA., with his wife and two children, ages 13 and 5 1/2 months. He works in the Optical industry and spends his spare time (what little he has), playing guitar and reading, reading, reading.