Last night I accidentally found myself watching a television programme (the Secret Life of Twins, BBC1) about identical twins. They were testing pairs of twins to see how identical they were. I was initially prepared to find it tedious – everyone knows identical twins are kind of… identical. Case solved. Programme over. But wait. What is this here? What about twins raised apart? In different cultures?

Who or what shapes children?

They were looking at a pair of twins (Alexandra and Mia), Chinese orphans who had been separated not long after birth and one was being brought up in America, one in Norway. The children were re-united for a few days and got on like a house on fire. What struck their adoptive parents was that they were more like each other in personality than they were like their adoptive brothers and sisters. In other words, they were born that way.

As a parent, that made me think. Parents (and perhaps particularly parents with religious belief) often feel that they are supposed to shape or mould their children, that it is their job to make their offspring into better people. Looking at these twins made me wonder, can I really do that?

Helping our children to be who they are

Perhaps my daughter is who she is, who she is going to be. Perhaps we can give her examples, be examples, help her to understand the world – but maybe parents, carers and, indeed teachers need to spend more time understanding their children and helping them to be who they are going to be.

Maybe it is time to cut out the moulding and shaping metaphors and concentrate more on enjoying children for the people they are.