Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nature versus nurture

Why do kids turn out the way they do? Are their personalities innate characteristics or do they develop in response to their environments? This question reoccurred to me recently when I encountered a young man that I hadn't seen since he was nine or so.

Luis (not his real name) was adopted when he was three from a Central American country. He went to Josh's daycare and later was on a soccer team that I coached. Initially he only spoke Spanish but as his mother spoke only English, he eventually forgot all his Spanish. He spent much time on the streets begging for food before being adopted. He was not the least bit shy, which I assumed that he had to be bold in order to eat. I had him in my care several times as he liked to play with Josh who was almost 2 years younger. Typical scene: we'd be in a park and he would see a stranger eating something. He'd go right up to that person and ask if he could have whatever they were eating. Sometimes the stranger would be so shocked, they'd give up the food. He also was very demanding around my house wanting this or that. He seemed coachable. I would tell him that his behavior was unacceptable. He would then ask more politely. He and Josh grew apart. It had been more than 20 years since I have seen him. I did know that his single adoptive mom had died leaving him and his 2 younger sisters without a parent

Last week at the pool, a young man asked if I were Josh's mom. It was Luis with a toddler and 5 year old. This was the part where I vote for nature. His 5 year old Luisa acted just like the young Luis. Not a bit of shyness. She was demanding this and that. Specifically she demanded Oliver play with her even though he had made it clear that he didn't want to. She kept grabbing him. Now I assume she has not had to beg on the street. Even Luis had to keep reminding her to tone it down some. There must be some gene for not having a self-censoring mechanism. She must have it.

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