The role of genetics vs the role of the environment has long been debated – Nature vs Nurture. In my opinion, based on experience and research, they both play a role, with nature taking the lead and nurture guiding the nature. We each are born, not as a blank slate as John Locke theorized, but as individuals with our own inherent temperaments, which we maintain throughout our lives. Each of us possess the 9 temperament traits on a scale from low to high; Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Mood, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, and First Reaction.
Low key, compliant children do not suddenly become energetic and persistent because we “teach” them to, and vice versa. Different environments influence how traits are expressed and care givers can guide children, but we can not change them. A child who is slow to warm up (shy) will likely cling to an adult when they enter a classroom setting with many other children buzzing around. A child who is quick to warm up (outgoing) will dive right in, talking to anyone around. These basic temperament traits can be molded through guidance (nurture), exposure to many experiences, and conscious work on the part of the individual and guiding adult, but the inherent trait will not be eliminated.
A child who is extremely persistent (also labelled “stubborn”), will dig in her heels and refuse to comply. These are the infants who cry and will not stop if you set them down. They are the toddlers who have two hour tantrums over minor issues. The harder you push, the harder they push back. Telling them “No” is never an acceptable answer. As a parent, it is a struggle to make it through the day. These children may mellow over time, with guidance, but they will become the go-getters who get things done. They don’t give up. They work tirelessly to accomplish a goal.
On the other hand, the “easy” children who are extremely compliant, who do anything we ask, may need help finding that persistence when needed. They may need help learning to work through challenges, make choices and decisions independently, stick up for themselves, and give “no” for an answer.
Each child is a unique individual. Helping a child understand his own and other’s “nature” will help him to eventually reach Maslow’s highest level of needs – self actualization. Understanding, appreciating, and tailoring our guidance to each individual is how we, as teachers and parents, do our part – nurturing the nature.
For further information:
The Nine Temperament Traits (brief article)
Child Temperament: How We Start to Become Ourselves | David C Rettew (10:02 video)
How the Nine Temperament Traits Affect Behavior (pdf)
Who Is My Child? Understanding Children’s Temperaments (44 page workbook)