Natural Tendancies Discussed

I was reading an article a couple weeks ago, more of an opinion blurb, about human nature and whether we are born bad, or good. The post was little more than the question, but the responses were numerous and somewhat bizarre. There were a few select entries that I would describe as digestible, but the thread on a whole had developed into craziness with very little actual discussion.

There are many who believe we are born neutral, without good or bad tendencies to start with, then are taught through our environment as we mature. Well, I think that’s semi-true only to a certain point. New born babies may not show a tendency either way, but small babies haven’t developed an awareness of their environment yet, so tendencies for decision making won’t show up.

When children begin to become aware of their environment and realize that they can affect it, you begin to see something different. We are not complete products of our environment. Sure, it has it’s place in our lives and affects us deeply, but it really can’t be claimed until later in life. We DO have a tendency toward bad, even at young ages. Hold on, I’ll explain!

Think about normal child development and what we, as a adults and parental figures, Do have to teach and what we Don’t. There are certain degrees in all children, some children just need more attention in specific areas then others.

But in general:

We Do have to teach a child to share. We Do have to teach patience. We Do have to teach how to control a temper. We do have to teach responsibility. We Do have to teach obedience. We Do have to teach how to give without expectation (this is more true when a child begins to understand ownership). We Do have to teach courtesy. We Do have to teach how to consider the needs of others without selfish motivations.

We Don’t have to teach a child to lie. We Don’t have to teach a child to hit. We Don’t have to teach a child to throw a temper tantrum. We Don’t have to teach one to be mean to another, or lash out in anger. We Don’t have to teach a child to sass. We Don’t have to teach how to be rude, or disrespectful when things don’t go his way.

I have spent years working with children in one form or another, from small children to working at facilities for troubled teenagers. These are not just my opinions, these results are observable and measurable.

Again, there are many degrees between children, no two are exactly the same. There are those children that are easier to coach than others (if you have one of them, your friends may be jealous of you). Then there are those who have a great environment and loving parents, but still need to learn things the hard way. You know, bailing them out of jail at 16 years old, that sort of thing.

With each, good and bad, there are two different approaches to learning. Good: We have to teach children what being good, or what is perceived as appropriate behavior, actually is. Children need reasons. Bad: We have to teach what the consequences are for doing what is considered bad. They do what feels good, such as getting angry and lashing out in spite, unless a negative consequence is attached to the behavior.

Proper coaching through verbal teaching and example is important. If a child is left un-coached, he will naturally seek out meeting his own needs, or emotional desires, in a highly selfish manner. Well, they will do that anyway, but we can steer it a little. We, as imperfect humans, tend to have selfish and self centered traits to a large degree, even as adults who HAVE been taught.

Isnt that right? Be honest!

I have even heard many people link these traits to the animal kingdom. The “bad” part of us, or what is now referred to as “inappropriate behavior” in our politically correct world, certainly does not come from the animals. Animals are instinctive; they don’t make complicated decisions like we do. It’s not that they don’t problem solve, they just can’t think through their decision making in the same way.

When we are talking about children, or adults for that matter, the “bad” part comes from more complicated reasoning and decision making. When someone displays traits such as lying, stealing, cheating, or generally being malicious or deceitful, these are human behaviors that animals don’t share. Often these behaviors don’t have to be learned. When animals are being “bad” it’s instinctive, often trying to gain dominance, or reacting out of perceived self preservation, not high level thinking.

I can’t see everyone falling in under the same line of thought, so a debate may continue for some time about human nature. If you want to do some observing of your own, find someone with numerous children. If they do have multiple children and they’re all easily coached, then by all means shake the hands of those parents! However, if you are the parent with many well behaved children (no “bad” traits), then your friends may not actually like you. Sorry to bear the bad news.

A little social issue for thought.

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