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Do kids really listen when parents talk? Nature vs. Nurture?

Updated on November 24, 2010

Does talking make a difference?

Everywhere you go you hear these words, "Talk to your children, it's the anti-drug, the anti-sex, the anti-drinking".  Ok, perhaps it's not phrased exactly like that, but you get my point.  Basically, the world tells us if we "TALK" to our kids, they will NOT do drugs, they will NOT drink, they will NOT have sex before marriage (or at the least will use protection!). 

My question to all of you is this: Do you really think talking to your children about these issues makes a difference or not?

I realize right now at minimum half of you reading this think I'm an idiot.  Of course talking to your children is a good thing and it helps is what you're probably thinking.  And, in some instances you are probably 100% correct.  What I'm trying to make my point on is that sometimes YOU would be wrong.  (YOU being the people that think talking ALWAYS changes how your children see things, and will always prevent them from doing said bad things, if the talk is handled properly....not everyone reading this!) 

I won't disclose any confidences in this hub, nor will I give you titillating little stories to entertain you (Perhaps another time), but I will say loosely "In my experience", this approach makes little to no difference if a child is so-inclined.

I began, literally, to discuss not smoking, drinking, or using drugs to my two sons when they were in their high chairs.  I myself do not smoke, have never smoked, and since divorcing their biological father, have not allowed anyone to smoke in my home.  Yet, I have two sons that both like to smoke,  Granted, the oldest is not at the moment smoking, as he's trying to "quit", but he's resorted to tobacco chewing (which I never did either I might add! LOL), so that doesn't really count as "quitting" tobacco altogether now does it?  So does that go back to the "nature" thing?  Is it their "nature" to smoke because their biological father smokes?  Or is because I failed to "nurture" them properly?

Studies have shown:

1.  Adoptive children share a personality closer to their biological parents then to their              adoptive parents.

2.  Environmental factors seem to have no bearing on personality development.

3.  However, adoptive parents do have an influence on their adopted child's values, faith, politics, and attitude.

There are numerous studies on this subject, and depending on whom you talk to you'd probably get different opinions, but I am interested in hearing what some of you believe, and why.

As I said before, I won't go into the "dirty" laundry on here, suffice to say there is more to the story than merely smoking cigarettes.  :)  And part of the reason I'm keeping a huge part of it to myself is the fear of ridicule.  One of the other things I have a very hard time hearing from people is the phrase "A child lives what it sees or learns", or something along those lines.  I divorced their biological father (and you'll notice I use that phrase though out this article, as I do not feel the term "Dad" should be handed out lightly, and he is not one to them, but that's for another "rant"), but I got them out of the house at an early age so they would NOT grow up to watch drinking, smoking, and intermittent drug use.  I do not do any of those things, and did not want my boys to grow up thinking those things were alright.  In all fairness, I have on occasion had a wine cooler, just never been drunk, so they didn't witness it in my home.  Don't get me wrong, I'm far from perfect, that's not my point in this article, just saying they did not witness those types of transgressions in my house.  If we're talking about their temper, or their hatred of chores, THOSE are my fault!  I take full blame for those!

Anyway, lest I lose you from boredom, I will end this now.  But please share your feelings on this subject with me.  Thank you, and good luck with your "talks" with your kids!

Do you think talking to your children helps prevent drug use?

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    • AngRose profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Interesting to learn a bit more about how you "tick" my friend! And I have to say I'd agree with you. Funny you read this hub today, we were talking about it just this evening..the nature/nurture thing. My youngest was busy nagging again for a tattoo, and it brought up how many of his biological fathers traits he possesses, even though we split when Derek was 2, and did not spend a lot of time with his father. Not necessarily just because he wanted a tattoo, I do have one of those myself...haha, but in other areas.

      Thank you for the lesson...I eagerly await the next installment of your wisdom. On whichever subject you should so desire! It's always interesting my good friend.


    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Angie, I don't think parents telling their children that anything is good or bad is going to make the slightest difference. My mother smoked. She came from a generation and set that though smoking was "smart". She was a lady of the Thirties onwards and was always noted for being chic. My father never ever smoked. When I first smoked, my mother burst into tears... but then insisted that if I did, I did it with panache.

      Both my parents drank, as it was the “thing that one does". I was introduced to alcohol at a very early age... in the hope that I would be able to handle it... I did for years. Then I developed a severe drink problem for a while.

      I have smoked hashish and marijuana as it has been fashionable.

      I have more recently smoked shisha.

      Now I no longer smoke, and have not touched a drop of alcohol for over thirteen years... although I really loved it and knew enough about it, and had a "good palate".

      This is a very long winded way of saying that parents have no influence whatsoever on what their children do... It is a matter of what is fashionable; what the peer group dictates; what is the norm for the culture.

      To give a very silly, but nice interpretation: For a period I became obsessed with Tennessee Williams and his plays and novel. The smart people in those works drank Frozen Daiquiris and Negroni. So I would regularly get rat arsed on Frozen Daiquiris.

      I was very much into Russian novels once in which the heroes smoked Balkan Sobranies… I smoked nothing but Balkan Sobranies, Black Russian cigarettes and Egyptian Tobacco; and got rat arsed on Polish or Russian Vodka.

      I rest my case… it’s not parenting, it’s nurture… (when the nurture is acquired from literature)

      Here endeth the First Lesson.


    • AngRose profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Thanks for your kind words...I'm afraid I was just sort of ranting the day I wrote this...probably angry at my son for something and wondered if he ever really listened to anything I said! LOL I was re-reading it and thought I sounded like a pompous windbag who just talks "at" my kid instead of listening to him...which I hope isn't the case...I know I try to listen! But thanks for your kind words anyway. :)

    • What Is Q profile image


      7 years ago from Tennessee

      Ok, so I read this because of the smoking tag, since I do smoke. I have no kids of my own, sad to say, but if I ever do, I plan on quitting the day they're born. No one influenced me to smoke, I just picked it up, and I picked it up late, when I was 21. Some might consider that early, I don't know. But I never had the desire before then. My parents never mentioned smoking to me, but I know how they feel about it. But this is a good hub and you're asking a good question. Parents really should talk to their children about these things. What my parents didn't talk about, I just learned from example, and that speaks more than words. I think kids listen more by example than lectures, but both are important. Thanks for sharing! Voted up.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What about listening to children? We can talk to them or even with them until we are blue in the face, but do we listen to them? Really listen to them?

      Kids (what we were not so long ago) are masters at deflection (remember?). The more a grownup talks to them, the more cotton they stuff into their ears while looking, at times, quite attentive. They usually have our number better than we have theirs.

      To your point, AngRose, difficult subjects like sex and addiction do need to be brought up in the home, so that kids know that these are important aspects of life that they can discuss in a safe environment. But then we have to make that environent safe for them by listening to them, without judgment, without preaching, without proffering the latest "say no" pamphlet first.

      Do kids really listen when parents talk? Maybe that's 50-50, depending. Is it a matter of nature vs nurture, as you ask? The jury's still out.

      This is a great Hub for raising parents' awareness. Glad I found it.

    • AngRose profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Glad you enjoyed it, and I too agree that peer pressure is one of their greatest problems. I also feel all the social networks such as facebook just cause more trouble because the kids go on those and put their whole lives on there for everyone to see, and it involves people in the situations that should have nothing to do with it, and don't know the whole story, and it just snowballs.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      7 years ago from Sweden

      I believe talking to your teens is very important, but I do´not think it will prevent them from trying something they want. I agree with everybody here about that the peer pressure is immense. As a parent, the best one can expect is that the talking creates and increase communication and understanding. I´m in the middle of this problem right now and it is a constantly navigating to stop some unwanted behaviors in time. They must also be able to try some things and figure out whats best for them. It is a part of growing up! Thank you for this great hub, I enjoyed the read!

    • AngRose profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Pookie, Saddle, and Chris,

      Thank you all for taking the time to read my humble words, and to give me the feedback I asked for. While I wrote this hub from the perspective that talking with your children probably doesn't help at all, that was partially to incite just such stimulating discussions. I do believe talking with your children helps. I do not believe it prevents everything. But I do believe they listen more than we ever give them credit for. And while they may not always make the best decisions, they do take it all in, process it, and retain large quantities of it. Their curiosity, peer pressure, and other influences encourage them to try the "forbidden" things that we talk with them about, but a large number of them then stop those things when they find it is not worth it.

      I have had my older son, and his girlfriend, both as they got older, and I use that term loosely as they are still only 20 and 22, apologize to me for their behavior in the past and what they put me through. And they now try to lecture my younger son and tell him to behave! So I do know they listen. And learn. And care. I also still get frustrated when they act like jerks! :)

      Thanks for your great comments!


    • ChrisLincoln profile image


      7 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      There is a huge difference between talking with, and talking to. It takes time and patience to have any conversation of value, and most teens will only give you a very limited window.

      With two guys in their late twenties, they shared with me (their step dad) that how I treated, and interacted, with other people, had the greatest impact on them. They watch you like hawks, and yes, we are found wanting.

      I was adopted, and lost my Dad last year (he deserves the term). With no biological link, it suprises me how like him I am. Others say we had the same walk, same turn of phrase, and I certainly wasn't mimicking him. We were on opposite sides of the Atlantic for 20 years, but still people would comment on it.


    • saddlerider1 profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree with PookieB that talking is not a guarantee that our children will still not go out and do what we don't want them to, however keeping the door of communication open at all times is important.

      I have a 16 yr old son living with me and I have gone through the smoking of both cigarettes and weed at his school. The peer pressure is immense, most kids are experimenting with something or other.

      I told him I know I can't make you stop something, but if we can talk about it and shed light on the pros and cons we are making headway. He does things in moderation and that's all I can expect, he is a good kid and stays out of trouble, but being a teen with testosterone and hormones running wild, they will try things.

      It's an on going struggle raising teens, but we just must keep telling them how much we LOVE them and we are there for them 24/7...Thanks for the share, excellent read.

    • PookieB profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't think talking to your kids will necessarily prevent them from their experimentation with drugs and other things they should try to avoid....but I do believe that talking to your kids may keep them from spiraling out of control. God knows if talking kept kids on the straight and narrow, I would have three saints! LOL

    • KillerIdeas profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix Arizona


      I found your hub to be moving, introspective and brutally honest. Having raised two children, one that was not my biological child, I empathize with your soul searching. Peer pressure is an overwhelming force in our children's lives. Your struggle to find the bonds that will overcome the dangers of the world and protect your children is a noble one. Thank you for your honesty.


    • AngRose profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Thanks so much for your kind words. And you're right, I won't ever stop talking to mine and trying to help them learn from the mistakes of others. But sometimes it just doesn't seem to make a difference, they have to make their own mistakes! I guess we were the same way huh? :)


    • LaurieDawn profile image


      7 years ago


      I would have to agree with you on talking to your kids. :) No matter how hard you try at times it seems impossible. Not that I will ever stop trying, but then again a mother never does.

      I enjoyed your article very much.

      Laurie :)


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