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Some interesting DNA research just coming out about parenting behavior and its impacts. Among the findings:

One of the strongest and most counterintuitive findings in this nascent field is that children with a sweet temperament, which is under strong genetic control, are the least likely to emulate their parents and absorb the lessons they teach, while fussy kids are the most likely to do so. Fussy children have a hypersensitive nervous system that is keenly attuned to its surroundings—including what Mom and Dad do and say.

I have another theory--

When you have a strong willed child, you spend a lot of time parenting that kid. You pray over that kid. You don't let little things go. You come down hard a lot, but also praise a lot. In short, you parent a lot.

When you have a really easy kid, you may not. So you don't try as hard to pass on important life skills, behaviours, and values.

Or at least, you don't have as much opportunity to. Kids tend to assimilate what you model and teach to them when you're being deliberate. They don't always do it when you're not making a concerted effort.

I think if you combine this with the trend in wider society to be your children's friends, rather than their parents, and you see where it's going. I just finished Liberation's Children by Kay Hymowitz, and she has some interesting essays in there about trends in wider parenting.

And one thing she found is that while families love their kids, and provide for their kids, they don't necessarily pass on important values because they don't have important values. If parents don't have absolutes, don't believe that sex before marriage is wrong, for instance, then what do they have to say to their child about sex that makes any sense, beyond "use a condom"? Nothing is a value lesson anymore. It's all relative.

Yet the Frontline producers unwittingly lead us to the conclusion that adults are not talking to their children for the same reason experts themselves can only deliver these platitudes. They don't believe there are any firm values to impart. These parents undoubtedly do not approve of group sex or sexually transmitted diseases or, for that matter, shooting one's classmates. But they have absorbed from the surrounding culture an ethos of nonjudgmentalism, which has drained their beliefs on these matters of all feeling and force. This suspension of all conviction helps explain the bland, sad air of many of these interviews. "They have to make decisions, whether to take drugs, to have sex," the mother of Kevin, the boy who lives in the pool house, intones expressionlessly. "I can give them my opinion, tell them how I feel. But they have to decide for themselves." It's hard to see how imparting her values will do anything to help her child. After all, these values have no gravity or truth. They are only her opinion.

So in a world where many parents do not have any values, and then you combine that with the possibility that easy children do not pick up values as easy as fussy ones do, and you have a recipe for children drifting away. But it's a double trouble thing: it's not just that the kids can't pick up the values; it's that, as a society, we have stopped imparting values at all. We become our kids' friends, at best their mentors, hoping to guide them through decision-making.

I, on the other hand, have firmly told my children that under no circumstances are the doing certain things. I have told them it is not really their decision; that God says no, I say no, and they'd better listen. I don't say it that harshly, but that is the whole attitude of our home. There are certain things one just doesn't do. And my kids know that.



At 12:52 AM , Blogger Lauren @ Thingish Things said…

Fascinating research...totally makes sense!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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