Nature versus nurture, we hear it all the time; that unique combination of traits that makes a person. Some derived from genes and others from the environment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, particularly after my son and I leave his gymnastics class each week.
Two weeks ago, I told you all about Richard The Bully who seemed to have it in for my highly cautious son. I can happily report that the last two weeks we have had only one altercation with Richard, during which I firmly told him, “No” when he tried to take my son’s toy. What happened in the few minutes after that really opened my eyes to what I have a feeling is the unintentional making of a bully.
Over The Top
For the last two weeks, Richard’s entire family has accompanied him to gymnastics. Previous to that, it had only been his mother. For the last two weeks, I have watched Richard’s father and both grandmothers in action around this kid.
Apparently in Richard’s family, “No” is not a word he hears, but “Special” and “Wow” and “Look at him!” are. Now don’t get me wrong; I think my son is pretty amazing and I’m pretty sure every parent out there thinks their child is something special. But Richard’s family is truly over the top.
Richard runs across the room, and his entire family gushes in awe. I’m serious. Every little thing Richard did have them exclaiming in awe and pride. When I told Richard, “No” when he attempted to take my son’s toy, his grandmother swooped in to console him and tell him, “You don’t want that nasty toy. No, I have a toy much more SPECIAL for Richard!” She did not tell him not to take other kids’ toys; she told him that he was above that toy that my son was playing with, he was too special for it.
And I realized that they are making him into the bully that he is. Yes, he’s spirited, but so are many kids; the other spirited kids in this class don’t bully the others and get praised for it.
Someone Else’s Shoes
I hesitate to truly place blame on his family for a few reasons. I’m sure they don’t realize what they are doing, and I don’t know their particular story. Whether something happened to make them like this.
My shy, cautious boy crawled across the trampoline today by himself. The first week of class, I couldn’t get him on it. I praised him to the sky for being brave enough to go on that trampoline and crawl through a tunnel that scared him. To an outsider, it might look like I was praising my boy for something ordinary, too.
From what I’ve seen over the last few weeks, nature gives us the building blocks, but nurture is what builds the house. I can only hope that Richard’s parents will be building a few extra wings to his foundation in time, just like I’m trying to do with my boy.
‘Till Next Time