My daughter, Sarah, came out of the womb as her own person. Her independent spirit revealed itself before the age of two and a half. Psychologists I’ve talked to say this is unusual. But does it mean that this aspect of personality is inborn?

Here is an example of what I mean. When Sarah was less than two, she got confused because another little boy had the same name as her brother, David. I told her that the other David was Jan’s (the Mom’s) David, like your brother David is mine and you are mine. She was sitting on my lap. She pulled away from me and emphatically stated “NO! I MINE!”

Sarah at 18 months

That apparently shows an advanced level of separation as a distinct individual from the mother. This usually happens much later in a child’s development.

Another example involved bedtime. At eighteen months, my older son had always needed me to stay with him till he fell asleep. So that’s what I did with Sarah at that age. I stood by her crib and sang to her and told her stories. One night, after I had been with her for a few minutes, Sarah said “You can go now Mommy. I want to go to sleep!” I was surprised but thrilled that she could assert herself and tell me what she wanted. And that she could go to sleep on her own. She was always a self-soother. David never was.

A similar incident occurred with her Dad when Sarah was a little over two years old. Her father was tickling her while she played with his watch. She hated being tickled and asked her dad to stop. He kept tickling. She asked him to stop more emphatically. He didn’t. So she hit him in the face with the watch. Her father was stunned. He asked her why she had hit Daddy and hurt him.

Her answer – “I told you to stop”. Wow! That was a “Make my day” moment!

Sarah at two

Her father never tickled her again. He also treated her with much more respect from that day on. Sarah instinctively knew how to set limits and to protect herself and her space. I wish I had that moxie, even as an adult.

My son had a very different temperament. When I would tell my five-year old son that he had upset me by doing something I didn’t like, his response was usually “I’m sorry Mommy! I won’t do it anymore.” Perfect response from a mother’s perspective. When I said the same thing to my five-year old Sarah, her response was “I’m sorry you’re upset. But you’ll just have to deal with it.” Not exactly a mother’s dream child.

So is this deep sense of self genetic? Are we born either with a sense of boundaries or not? That seems to be the case with my kids. I’ve watched these personality differences continue into adulthood. David has always been more like me and Sarah has always been more like her father in this regard.

After having my own children and watching them develop over time, I now believe that nature may have an edge over nurture when it comes to certain basic characteristics and personality traits. I’m sure there are examples of nurture being the dominant force, but in my experience, I vote for nature over nurture on the basics of who were are.

Categories: Childhood, Ellin Curley, Family, Photography, Psychology

Tags: , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Sarah sounds like an amazing child and possesses the characteristics needed in the women of today.
    We are amazed at the variations in personality of each of our four children. Nature definitely has a lot to do with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having four kids must be fantastic. I’ve also read that birth order has physiological as well as psychological effects on the development of kids in a family. Also the interactions between the kids have a big impact on their development.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do think there is some truth to the birth order theory. They are all so different and many ways they share the same moral code. Not only do I love them as my children, I like them as people.


  2. In our family, 3 sons (brothers). 3 distinctly different personalities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always amazed how people who are totally different could have grown up together in the same home with the same parents. Tom and his brother are from different planets. Yet they’re close.


  3. Nature, definitely. I never knew I was adopted, until I was nearly forty. I ‘took after” my aunt, who was a large woman, outgoing, a bit sulky in the corners, and wore jangly bracelets, good perfume, makeup, and was an extremely creative woman. Her sister was none of these things.
    One does not adopt personality traits from someone else, you are who you are. And when I was 40 I discovered that she was my mother, and the woman who raised me was my aunt. And my likes and dislikes suddenly made a lot of sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amazing story. How awesome to realize that your real mom was the ‘aunt’ that you take after in so many ways! If that isn’t an argument for the dominance of natur


    • Amazing story. How awesome to realize that your real mom was the ‘aunt’ that you take after in so many ways! If that isn’t an argument for the dominance of nature, I don’t know what is!


  4. Scientists have long said that nature has a lot more to do with how our kids develop than we do, though I’m pretty sure having enough food, a comfortable place to live, books, and good schools have got to make a difference too. So let’s call it 50-50.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the nurture shapes what nature gives us. It also gives us the superficial stuff like personal tastes and preferences, personality quirks, relationship skills, etc.


      • I agree. But having a good life makes that choices and preferences a lot easier to manage. But Owen was always very mechanical and could see projects in three dimension — something I absolutely can’t do. He also has a perfect sense of direction, unlike me who is always lost.. It’s wonderfully interesting raising them, isn’t it?


        • I’m so glad I had two children because it’s amazing to watch how differntly they develop. It’s also gives you a better chance of one of your kids having something from you that you like!


  5. These are amazing examples of the personalities that children are born with!

    Liked by 1 person

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