Born or Bred?

I sit back sometimes and watch my son go about his daily routine.

Get up, snuggle in the chair or on the couch with Mommy or Daddy (depending on what day of the week it is and who is up), drink juice, eat breakfast, watch cartoons, play with toys, eat some more, play some more, snuggle some more, sleep (somewhere, on whatever surface is available at the time that he crashes), wake up, play again, bath time, supper time, bedtime. Repeat.

I watch him go about his day with no cares or concerns. No worries or frustrations (other than the ones that arise when he can’t find his favorite toy or when said toys get stuck in odd ball places and he can’t get them out). No sadness. No anger. Just…delight in the small things. The simple things. The things that matter.

The older Little Man gets, the more his personality changes. The more his emotions evolve and change. The more frustration he emits when he doesn’t get his way. The more sadness he feels over small heartbreaks. The more bad behavior that arises in wake of “adversity.”

The older he gets, the more he picks up on things around him. On the personalities of people he encounters. On the circumstances he is brought into. On the way that we [the husband and I] handle life’s little mishaps.

Little Man and I were enjoying a mid-afternoon snack the other day on the living room floor. Just me and him, kicking it on the rug watching reruns of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, discussing the size of Mickey’s ears and how fast Pluto could run vastness of the universe and the secret to life. Our dog, Tessa, was snoozing nearby but perked up when Noah dropped a piece of his food on the floor within sniffing distance. She jumped up and headed over to scoop it up when Little Man stood up and yelled, “No, Tessa! Bad, bad girl!” and picked his food up so she couldn’t get it. He set it to the side because it was “nasty” and plopped back down on the rug. Without missing a beat he looked over at me, rolled his eyes and said simply, “Dumb Dog…” and went back to watching his cartoons.

I admit, that cracked me up for a few minutes. Obviously he heard the husband and I call her that (seriously, this dog is nuts….the stories I could tell…) but doesn’t know what it means. He just knows that when she’s being bad, that’s what we tend to say (to each other, under our breath…or so I thought).

It made me start thinking about what else he is picking up on. I think we all, as parents, realize that our lifestyle, our choices, our personalities impact the lives of our children and the people they become. But, sometimes I think that we forget that everything we do is influencing them.ย 

It made me wonder if the tantrums, the fits, the nasty little attitude he gets when he doesn’t get his way is something he was just born with and is now understanding how to verbalize…or if these are bits and pieces of the vibes that we’ve been giving off in our home.

We aren’t a “fuss, fight and argue” kind of household. In fact, the husband and I get along well, keep the yelling to the minimum and maintain an overall healthy and cheerful attitude in our home.

But there are times…

Frustrating times…

Bad times…

Angry times…

that we lose our positive outlook and loving demeanor and let things slip.

And I wonder if these moments are the ones that impact our children the most.

I like to think that our children, no matter how young, pick up on the good and the bad. But my question is…

Are they born with bad behavior in their blood?
Or do they learn it from us?

Linking up today with Shell @ Things I Can’t Say for Pour Your Heart Out!




  1. says

    I think it’s a little of both. On the one hand, you don’t have to tell kids how to disobey or get into trouble – they naturally just figure it out. But on the other hand, it’s pretty obvious that they pick up some things from us!

  2. says

    Born with it and bred for it, too! I think the very same thing about Abbey all the time. The best we can do is to be compassionate with our children and model the behaviors we want to nurture in them. . . and when we do do things that we shouldn’t, genuinely apologize and correct our behavior. And when they do repeat things that we wish they didn’t pick up on, we can try (and fail) not to laugh our asses off ๐Ÿ˜‰ *hugs*

  3. says

    Wow. What a great question. I wonder the same thing. Does Dustyn just pick up on my frustrations or does he pick up on my loving heart.

  4. says

    I really think we’re all born with a sinful nature and it’s up to us as parents to guide and shape our children so that they’re able to work within it. I mean, we’re all sinners right? Of course I think we as parents can have a huge influence on our kids’ attitudes and outlook on life. But as a whole – I believe we’re innately born selfish and sinful. It sounds kids of depressing doesn’t it? Thank goodness for God’s grace!

  5. says

    Oh, this is such a rough one. I think part of their personality is born with them and part is shaped(otherwise, all of my boys would be the same instead of SO different).

  6. says

    Honestly I really believe it’s both. My two boys were raised in the same house and yet they have two very different temperaments. I think we do the best we can and remember everything our parents did yet we all turned out ok ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. says

    You bring up very good points. I think some of what they display is inborn, a lot of how they express it comes from us. My three girls are very much like me, very much. It hurts to see my behaviours coming out in them. Heartbreaking to see what I am teaching them.

  8. says

    Unfortunately, I think they learn it from us. Are kids bad because they learn it from their parents? No. But the WAY they are bad, the way they react to situations are, as you said, likely a reflection of their environments and the response they get from us when they act out.

    Cameron is only just starting to repeat us. The other night I was leaving and Dan said “Bye Laura!” to which Cameron jumped in “Bye Laura!” Of course – not bad behaviour, but a reminder that simple things in our lives are giant changes to the “Buh Bye Mama!”s that come from his little world.

    And now I must remember to tame this tongue of mine during those OHSH*T moments….

  9. says

    THEY. ARE. SPONGES. They see and hear everything – even when we don’t think they do see or hear what we or others are doing. I was just having this conversation with Mike about our move back to Nashville and we needed to discuss it with the kids. They were starting to hear the chatter and though we thought we were being careful, Keegan already knew most of what was going on. All he wanted to know was when. I think we’re born to sin so some is definitely in their blood and they have to be taught right from wrong. However, I know I see many of my bad habits as well as Mike’s surface in our children all too often. I think it’s both.

  10. says

    we are a pretty mellow household too. not a fuss or fight time family either. But Sammy is just different. he is just…hard. Nate has learned a ton of not so great things from him. I wonder to myself sometimes if Sammy is more difficult because when he was a baby things around him weren’t so calm. Maybe it’s just mommy guilt? I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t really know

  11. says

    Courtney, wait till he tells you his first lie, and you’ll have your answer. I KNOW you’re not teaching him to lie! lol.

    One year, Rich and I were teaching toddler Sunday School. Two kids had Cheerios, in matching containers. The third child had no container, so we put Cheerios into a baggie for him. MAJOR FIT! Pure, out-and-out jealousy. Again, I KNOW his parents didn’t teach him Cheerios are only good in a pretty red container. Made us laugh.

    But the Bible calls it sin nature!

    But, yes, some things they learn from watching us. We’ve got sin nature, too. Sigh. It’s so awful to see them reflect our own ugliness.


  12. says

    I think it’s a combination of inate and learned behaviors. Even as young as MY Noah is (not quite 10 months), when things that are out of the norm happen, I can see him physically look at me to see how I react. And many times his reaction mirrors mine.

    For example, we had thunderstorms pass through one evening recently. Noah and I were sitting on the floor in his nursery, playing. When thunder struck loudly (which, honestly, makes me so nervous because I’m pretty scared of storms), he would be startled, stop what he was doing and look at me. I just acted as if nothing out of the ordinary happened, and we went right back to playing. Same thing when he falls down. If he just falls on his butt or in another way that obviously hasn’t hurt him, Bobby and I make a conscious effort to act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. And over the two-ish months since Noah’s started pulling up on furniture, he’s gotten to a point where he doesn’t cry when he falls unless he’s really hurt or really frustrated.

    On the other hand, the kid has a temper to him. It comes out on occasion when we aren’t tending to his wants/needs quickly enough or if he’s frustrated about something (like nap time). I can say without a doubt that this is not a learned behavior. He just has a temper.

    Regardless, I think the responsibility is on parents to be careful of their reactionary behavior around their kids because they DO learn that stuff. And I think the reactionary stuff is what can cause their natural behaviors to be problematic, if that makes sense.

  13. says

    The Bible is very clear about being born into sin… meaning we are all born knowing how to sin. (Romans 5:12-21 for example). So as a Christian, this is what I believe to be true. I’ve seen it too in my own daughter. She learned early on to disobey me, act selfishly and be unkind… we didn’t teach her that… we try to teach her NOT to do these things. But as cute and sweet as she is… innocent she is not. The truth about our sin nature is not something we want to be true. We want there to be a “fix” to it. We want to believe that we can be perfect parents and raise perfect children but we can’t raise them right anymore than they are able to act right.

    Of course, it’s also true that we provide the greatest influence over their lives. They do pick up on our bad habits and the worst parts of our personality for sure… so we need to be careful. But they pick up on our bad habits and sins BECAUSE they are born in sin. Jesus was the only person to not be born in sin (the Virgin Birth… not conceived with the seed of man) and he never picked up on Mary and Joseph’s bad habits and sins because he had no sinful nature.

    The only “fix” to our sin and to our children’s sin (for we are all born in sin) is to know Christ, believe in His death, resurrection and payment for our sin and to be held in His hand for all eternity. We are born knowing how to sin… so we sin… but Christ came to give us His righteousness so that by believing in Him, our sin will not be counted against us.

  14. says

    As a Christina I believe we were all born with a sin nature. So I think that every child is born this way and they learn to act this way on their own. Adam has recently started on the wrong behavior and throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. No one taught him that, he learned it on his own.

    Now that doesn’t meant to say that they can’t learn bad habits in the home. I think that is true and that our children do watch us and can get certain things from us. But it all starts with sin nature.

    • says

      I concur with Kathryn….I could give a long comment with numerous texts and thoughts, but I believe that children are born with a “want-to” to sin and do wrong. The doctrine of original sin is naturally one that is not cheery to think about, but what it does is overwhelming point to grace and His work in our hearts. I am so thankful that even though I was dead in my sins from birth, He has granted me forgiveness and redemption through the completed work of the Cross.

      I also agree with both Kathryn and your statements regarding things they pick up on…Mandi will tell you that Maddy has definitely learned words, statements, and attitudes from us, nothing major, it just sounds bad coming out of a three year old’s mouth ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. says

    I totally understand where you are coming from; I identify with this post so much! I feel like kids are such a mirror of us. It inspires me to live the best I can…although it also makes me feel guilty when I am not doing that. Ah, the life of parents, right?

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