A high school classmate of mine recently posted a comment about bullying on our class FaceBook wall. This was prompted by the recent school shooting in Ohio. As the comments continued to roll in, it was pointed out that neither of the shooter’s parents was present in his life and he was being raised by his grandmother. From there, a number of comments were made about his choice to shoot his classmates being a “parenting” issue.
The “nature versus nurture” argument is one that I’ve pondered quite a bit. I wouldn’t say that parenting isn’t a strong determining factor in how a kid behaves, but I don’t think it’s the only determining factor. I’m lucky - I’m blessed with great children. But their father and I certainly can’t take all of the credit for that. God, through genetics, gave them generally kind, happy, responsible personalities, and other than being the donor of half of those genes, I didn’t have much to do with that.
Let’s look at a very simplified example.
Sara’s room is generally a disaster – my husband might tell you that’s a poor parenting issue on my part, and I’ll take some responsibility for it because my feeling is that it’s her space and I can just close the door. But if you look at it genetically, she comes by it honestly. Her room is about as messy as mine was when I was her age. That’s only my fault because I made the egg that made her. Parenting-wise, I could, and do, encourage/nag/threaten her to clean up her room, but in the end her nature is to be messy.
My children don’t get into big trouble – or at least they haven’t gotten into big trouble. They’re empathetic and kind, they’re sometimes a little bit mean, they get mad, they are happy – they’re normal people. I know other parents who share my values, love their kids as much as I love mine and are at least as involved in their children’s lives as Rick and I are in ours. If their child makes a bad choice and gets in trouble, is that a parenting issue? I don’t think so.
My point is that it’s easy to point a finger at the parents and say, “You should have known” or “If you were a better parent your child wouldn’t have made that choice,” but it’s not always a fair accusation. I made some terrible choices when I was younger. My parents taught me right from wrong. I knew what they expected of me. The wrong choices were mine and mine alone and certainly not the fault of poor parenting. Rick and I have taught our children right from wrong, and they know exactly what we expect from them. But God forbid, if they make a choice to do something terrible, I’ll feel awful, but I will also know it’s not because we didn’t parent them well.
God gave us an immense responsibility by giving us children to nurture and raise. I’m not saying that this responsibility isn’t valuable and important in determining who a child grows into. But God also gave us, and our children, free will. As they get into their teenage years and beyond, they have more opportunities to make their own choices. And if they choose wrong versus right, like I did a few times, it’s their choice. Hopefully good parenting will at least teach them to take responsibility for their own actions and make it right. But again, it’s their choice.