Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When I was a new parent, I had the impression that children were the product of their environment. Which is extremely silly, in hindsight, because I definitely do not consider myself to be the product of the environment I myself grew up in :)

Furthermore, I was in school and studying psychology at university and it's pretty hard to take 20 psychology courses and come out of them thinking that people are the result of environment or "nurture". Environment versus genetics, nature vs nurture.

If that wasn't enough to shatter the theory - there was Cole himself. I tried to encourage athletics with Cole - I had him in gymnastics from 18 months, I had him at the park all the time, I had him on a bike, in roller skates, ice skates, etc. etc. He started soccer programs at 3. And it took until Cole was about 5 or 6 years old before he would even RUN. He enjoyed himself, had fun wherever he went - but he did not excel at physical things.

Now that I have Anna - a child who strives to be faster, stronger, achieve every physical feat I wish she wouldn't attempt - I see how it just wasn't in Cole's personality to do these things.

I don't mean to "pick" on Cole, but he is one of six children in our family and he is an "only child" in the respect that he does not share a full sibling. It makes him a bit of a target for my genetics theories. (I feel like I might still be in school. hmmm). There are other aspects of his personality that have been a blinking beacon of *genetics* for me as a parent. Number 1 is the "I am always right"TM personality trait.

Cole is a strong headed boy. Stubborn is another word for it. The chinese believe that a double crown means stubbornness - and I have one and so does my oldest son :) He has a drastically different approach to dealing with such things as "saying sorry" and "understanding that you've made a mistake" when compared to the other children in our household. He does not like to ask for help, he wants to prove he can do it all himself. He hates to acknowledge that he made a mistake, gets upset when asked to apologize, sees the world through a child's distorted view that he doesn't ever do anything wrong. Same environment, different genetics, and very different personality.

So What? Is it a big deal that your child's personality has a lot beyond your "control" (environment) as a parent. Well, it matters a lot in my opinion. When your child resists what you are trying to teach them, be it a value or a house rule (read: learning to bring home a lunchbag from school) - knowing that personality is somewhat beyond your control and you perhaps can't MAKE your child learn to REMEMBER things can free up some stress.

(stress is bad).

If I assume that what works for my older children "should work" for Cole, and keep expecting Cole to react and listen and learn the same way they do - then I will forever have problems (and so will he!). And so, I have begun to recognize that my children will each require me to raise them differently - as they each have their own inherent personality. They will "mature" in different areas at different rates and some will excel at some things and be slow at others.

Do your children have very different personalities? I'm sure it's common in many families. Birth order, gender, environmental differences are some other major factors in how siblings can be different besides genetics. What do you think?


  1. All my children are different. They react to things differently, they learn differently, some develop in some ways faster than others, some are very sensitive, and some couldn't give a shite if they disappoint you. Yes. And I have to train them all in ways that suit their very different personalities. Interesting post.

  2. Yep, mine are different, too. It's definitely interesting trying to parent them all the way they need.

    And my oldest two have double crowns. ;)