Parents who have more than one child can see differences from the very start. Is it nature or nurture, genetic encoding or environmental influence that contributes more to character and personality development? The age-old debate is far from resolved. The majority believes both genetics and environment have a role in determining who we become as adults.

The latest research indicates that although genetic programming is very important (25%), environmental influences and choices far outweigh (75%) the ancestral DNA effect on our personality formation. Yet, it’s hard to separate the impact differing parental styles have on child-rearing practices. The traditional style, “Do as I say” was popular until the 1960s when a more permissive style, “Anything goes” emerged. At the present time, democratic parenting seems to be favored among educated people. The premise is that in our complex world it is important to empower our children with negotiation skills and to give them choices that include clear-cut consequences for the decisions they make. Children who grow up in this environment tend to become more self-reliant, empowered adults who take responsibility for their actions.

The end result of effective parenting is the transmission of values from one generation to the next and the effective processing of childhood experiences. This involves three strategies. One is fostering wellness in children. To accomplish this means providing opportunities and environments for children to experience safety, trust, affection and nurturing. When parents notice and reinforce good or desirable behavior, children have a positive learning experience. When parents distract or ignore children who behave unacceptably or provide them with clear-cut consequences for broken rules, they help children become more socialized. Second is the commitment to teach values, set limits, and encourage tolerance for life’s frustrations. By providing the messaging for these behaviors, parents are shaping character and promoting virtues such as patience, postponement of gratification and cooperation. The third strategy is fostering self-reliance through empowerment… in other words, involving children in the decision-making process pertaining to their lives and activities. In this way, children learn that their choices and actions have consequences and they will understand they have to take responsibility for them. The self-reliance that comes through empowerment is built on successes. No task is too small to experience the joy of mastery at any age.