Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nature and nurture: when opinion meets reality

I enjoyed this self-deprecating and British-humor style post on how one's strongly held opinions can change when reality strikes:
Whitterer on Autism:

... I have always had very strong views on the nature v. nurture debate and closely align myself with the nurture camp. Or at least I did until I was presented with two autistic boys. I quickly changed allegiance to the opposite camp...
One of my favorite stories about parenting comes from old friends of ours. After four easy children they were quietly persuaded they were brilliant parents, and were modestly helping others learn the right way to do things. Then they adopted a fifth child. That was the end of certainty.

Now, I do think they really were exceptional parents -- but they had overestimated how much of their children's behaviors were a result of their efforts vs. a child's temperament. Human temperament (not the same as character, but related) is very much determined by genetic and intrauterine factors -- adoption and special needs children teach this lesson quite quickly and firmly.

Remember this the next time you quietly think what a bad parent someone must be, or what a good parent another person is. I've been told I'm a brilliant parent when out with one child, and ignored attempts at withering stares with another child. As nearly as I can tell brutal education has made me a pretty decent parent, but the praise and scorn were misguided.

You can't judge parental skill without knowing whether they're playing in the minor leagues (easy child) or the majors. I play in the major leagues, so my game has to be sharp. If you played in the majors you'd be good too.

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