At some point after Ander’s Behring Breivik’s terrorist attacks in Norway, I thought of his parents and what they must be going through. Other than the fact that his father was a diplomat, I have no idea what kind of parents they were or what kind of values they instilled in him. I do know that he and his father are estranged but for what reason, I don’t know. Did they raise him with hateful views? Or were they kindly parents who did all they could but at the cusp of his own adulthood, they knew that he would have to be responsible for the formation of his own personality?
It’s something I think about a lot, now that I have a person of my own to raise. I often see young people behaving horribly and wonder what their parents must be like. So, to make sure I did my job as a parent, I told my son, "James, you’re not allowed to grow up to be a terrorist." I’ll remind him again in a few years, just to be sure.
On a slightly lighter note, I wonder what a parent can actually do to shape the personality traits of their children. How much is DNA and how much is environment and how much is just plain personal choice? I like to think my parents were decent folk who did their best but it didn’t stop me from becoming a self-absorbed asshole for most of my teens and early twenties.
So I teach my child to be kind and tolerant but will he make the choice to become hard and hateful? Sure, he’s full of hugs and kisses now but what happens in ten years when he’s about to turn 13?
I think I can deal with just about any phase a kid can go through (kind of hoping for Goth) but I won’t know what to do with a kid who turns out to be an asshole.