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wonder
wonder asks:
Q:

Is it true that some children turn out bad irrespective of what their parents do?

In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
May 20, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Father Flanagan, founder of Boys Town, once said there is no such thing as a bad boy.  Boys Town truly doesn't believe that kids turn out "bad."  Yes, they may make bad decisions, and choose to do things that we view as bad, but those are only behaviors.  

The debate between nature vs. nurture is one that has been around for a long time.  Some believe that your personality is solely based on your DNA and we are pre-destined to act a certain way.  Others believe that one's personality is based on the environment in which they are raised.  The majority of people feel that it's a combination of both.  There are great arguments for both sides.  It's easy to find twins reared in relatively the same environment with the same parents who turn out with very different personalities and make very different choices.  What you believe is up to you.

There are many parents who do all the "right" things.  They are present, attentive, caring, and encouraging.  However, their children are not immune to making bad choices.  Parents who do everything right are often baffled when their child starts making bad choices such as drinking, doing drugs, or getting in trouble at school.  Whether those behaviors continue depends on the youth invovled and the way their parents choose to deal with the situation.  Behaviors can change if everyone involved is willing.  If a parent continuously tells their child that they are bad, often their kids will begin to "live up" to those expectations by displaying bad behaviors over and over again.

In short, there is not one answer to your question, but the bottom line is that no child or teen is bad!  Teach them how you want them to act and use appropriate positive and negative consequences to shape their behaviors.  Stay consistent and remember that you are their biggest role model.

Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000


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Additional Answers (4)

Hand in Hand
Hand in Hand , Teacher, Caregiver, Parent writes:
Dear Wonder:

This is an important question, and behind it lies a fear that many parents experience. "What if I put my whole heart and soul into my child, and something goes wrong! What if they don't turn out well!"

Here's what my 35 years of experience with parents and children tells me:

First, your love matters more than you can imagine. Every child needs one person who just lights up when they come into the room. Every child needs at least one person who is crazy about them, all their special talents and their quirks. Children are born for love and delighted attention. They are born to be very closely connected to their parents. If that sense of connection is there, children function well. They might not be like other children, they will have some challenges in their lives, but their parents love and attention sees them through. Limits are important, and how you set limits matters a lot in giving children what they need to turn out well. Limits that are delivered with love and respect are the kind that help children grow up well.

Second, there are circumstances that do serious harm to a child's ability to be empathetic, to use good judgment, and to live a peaceful and productive life. Almost all of those circumstances have to do with being separated from people who can love them. Separated by the tensions that come from poverty and racism. Separated by having parents die, and caregivers who are too overloaded to offer real love. Separated by harsh treatment or neglect. Separated by illness. These kinds of circumstances can be overcome when someone comes into their lives ready and willing to love a child no matter what. But after a damaging separation or traumatic set of experiences,it takes a lot of work! Children who have endured these kinds of separations seem to try to fight off the person who wants to love them. They cry, they tantrum, they act out. And that person needs to move close, let them drain those awful feelings, and keep loving them while they do it.

So really, the only way children "turn out bad" is when they don't have access to someone who will pay loving attention to them, someone who will engage with them, someone who understands that every child needs to cry and tantrum hard some times to offload the feelings that build up inside, so they can let the love of others in again.

We have more on what parents can do to help children feel the love they are offering at the website below.

Patty Wipfler

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
This is a very interesting question. However, there is part of the equation you are missing and that is "environment". I firmly believe that people you meet can influence you a great deal! Also, your environment and what you are exposed to at school and other places besides the home. A think parents should filter or control exposure to these bad influences while trying to expose their kids to situations where the child has to make choices (esp. in the teen years). Kids need guidance and help. Sometimes they need for parents to change their environmental circumstances so life can be lived in happiness.
> 60 days ago

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mama2kas
mama2kas writes:
I used to think that I could control how my kids turned out.  I was a firm believer in environment being the main controller of a child's well being.  I have come to realize that I was wrong.  My kids' biological father is bi-polar, schizophrenic, and manically depressed, among other things.  I thought that by taking my kids out of the environment that we lived in with him, by removing the problems in our lives, that I would be able to make my kids better people.  By giving them a better life, and doing things the "Right" way (that which their biological father never had), that they would be able to live happy, healthy lives.  So far this has worked for 2 of my 3 kids.  However, it just isn't so with my oldest.  It seems like no matter what me and/or my husband (kids' step dad) do, my son still has the issues that his biological father has.  Not saying that my son has been diagnosed with any of the same issues, aside from ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder).  But the fact of the matter is, no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do to keep it from happening, my son is turning out to be a carbon copy of his biological father.  I feel useless and I feel out of control, and worse off I feel like there is nothing that I can do to change things.  I have come to realize that DNA has a lot more to do with how a kid turns out, than the environment does!  I speak from personal experience!
> 60 days ago

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momtoo
momtoo writes:
Yes, I believe so. Children make up their minds to be the way they want to be, whether it is good or bad.  It is the parents job to teach the child the difference between right and wrong.  How they use it is up to them.  

On the flip side of your question, children could have the worst parents in the world and turn out to be good children. (Probably because they don't want to be like their parents)
> 60 days ago

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