Looking at how nature, nurture and culture each play different roles in raising a gifted child.
Often, we may ask ourselves how much of our child is innate and how much is influenced by the environment they’re in. As fellow educators and parents, do we have much say in who they are, and how would they turn out to be? Nature versus nurture is an age-old debate, especially when it comes to parenting and raising a child.
As a short article on Nature vs Nurture Child Development by Maryville University explains, much of the controversy in this debate is the misunderstanding of what genetic means: that fate and nature are inherently the same.
Instead of gearing towards a binary thinking point of view, we should relook and reframe this question. To help our child develop and optimise their fullest potential, we ought to consider both genetics and their environment, how both nature and nurture interact with each other to make up the individual that they are and will be.
Nature and Nurture: Conversing with Each Other
If nature (our genes, DNA and other hereditary factors) dictates who we are, how we look, our personality and physiology made-up, then surely siblings or twins should be similar. But that’s not always the case. One Australian study shows that while IQ between identical twins are generally identical (even though it’s heritable, the environment still plays a role in determining IQ), their sleeping length is majorly influenced by their environment.
So, the question is: are our genetics and DNA all that powerful? While a young child can naturally be predisposed to specific characteristics, studies have shown that different parenting styles can intensify or subdue certain traits. It also happens vice versa as we would tailor our technique to match their personality.
The environment or surroundings that a young child spent a significant amount of time in, will shape and reinforce who they are, and who they will be. For instance, a child’s genes may give them the intelligence to be a lawyer, but how we interact with them as parents and educators could determine their progress.
While genetics are critical drivers of various aspects of the child’s development, that same development could be influenced by what they experience. As a parent and educator, we have the power to curate that experience for them to grow into. For instance, it can be from nurturing in them powerful habits that aid in their learning experience to cultivating a love for learning.
Culture as Invisible Factors that Make Up Our Environment
Have you ever wondered or noticed how certain traits are generally valid for certain nationalities? Take, for example; we are not surprised when we meet conscientious and polite Japanese, passionate Italians who gesticulate while communicating, and practical and efficient Hong Kongers.
This is because the norms of society shape the habits of people in that environment. We are influenced by the people around us, whether in little or big ways. A young, growing child will tend to pick up certain habits or social cues by looking at their peers or someone older.
They will then connect the dots of what is permissible within this social space, and thus, cultivating or perpetuating the same habit. So, suppose we are to raise creators who are always curious about learning and trying new experiences. In that case, we need to create that environment to tap into that innate child-like curiosity.
Culture is an accumulation of that — whether at a school or home, if they are exposed to that repetition of behaviour and habit for a long time, they may be influenced and pick that up over time. The question is, how do we be mindful of the patterns that they’re picking up? For instance, how do we foster practices that can help them grow their inner potential and have greater clarity of their life purpose?
We become a product of our layers of experience
The good news in all these conversations is that our culturescape is not a given landscape. We can actively choose what to take away from our environment.
Over time, the more interaction the child has with us and the world around them, it yields an outcome, becoming their experiences. This collection of experiences make them who they are.
How do we help them actively choose what to keep and what to take away from all their learned experience? It’s essential for us to guide them to make thoughtful decisions, as this would shape them to be the person, they want to be. One way to achieve this is by getting them to reflect and question more as they learn.
The nurturing factor of parenthood allows us to identify and build on our child’s strengths and weaknesses. If we do not build on that, it’s improbable the child would maximise their fullest potential. So, let’s help to curate and create an environment that best compliments their innate person.
They are the Canvas and not the Battleground
As human evolutionary biologist researcher Irene Gallego Romero aptly puts it, "You are not the battleground which nature and nurture fight. You are a canvas of whom they collaborate." We should begin our approach not as a form of debate but as a constant growing conversation. How we raise our child and guide them to be the best version of them should be a fluid and ever-evolving conversation.
It is both ways — as we impart to them, we also learn from them and vice versa. When we allow for this canvas approach to happen, there’s more room to grow. It’s not about forcing them but equipping them with things that they need to thrive in any schooling system or life circumstances that they may face.
Gifted Kids Asia is passionate about nurturing gifted kids through invested parenting. If you’re keen to learn more about how to optimise your child’s intelligence and potential, you can check out the carefully crafted programs and courses we have in store.