It takes a lot of introspection and a lot of ego-busting, but take a good, realistic, look at your kids. What are they like? Polite? Kind? Social? Withdrawn? Unruly? Nasty? Patient? Short-tempered? Flexible? Anxious?
How did they get that way? Most likely, it was from you. Either from Nature (biologically) or Nurture (environmentally). Sometimes, that line between the genes and the surroundings can get very perforated.
Many behaviors are hereditary… but that doesn’t mean it’s DNA related. Let me explain…
First off, I must put a disclaimer: I am not a scientist. But that does not mean what I am about to say is untrue. In fact, I may be a very good person to be talking about the topic, since I can discuss it in very simple terms and not get too technical. And if there are any scientists out there reading this post, by all means, back me up!
Some traits people have are genetic- passed down in DNA from the biological parents. Babies are born that way. Eye color, general body size, certain diseases or conditions like Downs Syndrome or cystic fibrosis… all these conditions are present at birth and are out of the person’s control. A child adopted into a different family will not change the fate of these characteristics.
Then, there are certain traits that are fostered into a child: a good work ethic, cleanliness, organization skills… they can be taught. Any skills that can be learned are usually not present at birth. Granted, I am oversimplifying here. But let’s use something like the model for a healthy relationship as an example.
People will tend to pick a potential partner for themselves that is a lot like the dynamics they witnessed growing up because that was the model shown to them. Even though it may not be a good example, people become attracted to it because it feels like home. I’ve mentioned before that my parents had a dysfunctional relationship. As a result, I picked very bad people to get involved with up until I was about 36 (the magical number of years where a child has now spent just as much time away from their familial influence).
So if you identify patterns in your life that are not necessarily medically linked to your parents, look at the patterns in THEIR lives… then your grandparents’ lives… Chances are, something was passed down from generation to generation that was not genetic, yet you inherited those traits.
College is another good example. If your parents went to college, chances are, you will too. And if you came from working class people, you most likely will go into the trade or family business or your parents.
But there is no gene to my knowledge for picking a career or relationship.
Now that you can recognize that distinction, I think it’s important not to give too much credit to the gene pool. Yes, you do get what you get by the roll of the Xs and Ys… However, its crucial to admit that a lot of who we are is due to our environment.
True, science may have found certain genes LINKED to obesity or alcoholism. However, look at the lifestyles the parents lead. Parents who buy healthy food and model an active lifestyle usually do not have overweight kids. I may have a gene linked to alcohol abuse, but if my parents never drank, that switch may never get turned on… Conversely, I may have the intellectual potential to have a very high IQ, but if my parents never read to me or deprived me of stimulation at an early age, I will never fully reach my potential.
(I probably just stepped in it… right. about. now.)
My point is to be very careful how you view the mentality of “A chip off the old block” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” If it’s out of pride, then by all means, take credit that you’ve got a “Mini Me.”
But if you are under the illusion that your child is destined to suffer the same fate as you, make the 153Promise to challenge that view. Is your child bad at math because of some genetic aversion to numbers, or did they pick it up because they asked you for help and you said, “I’ve never been good at it, either.”
Is your child fated to be anxious because you were diagnosed with a genetic disorder, or is it that they learned from you that the world is scary because you are anxious… and so was your mother or father… Or maybe you yell at them a lot, so they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop… Or both.
Make the 153Promise to see what “long line of” whatever your family comes from, and examine WHY you think that is. If in doubt, ask your family doctor and if they don’t know, ask them for the name of a geneticist to learn whether or not you can change your child’s pattern of behaviors.
Give your children every opportunity to succeed, regardless of their chromosomes.
You may not be able to control the cards they were dealt, but you can help them play their hand to the best of their advantage. And if you were never taught those skills, seek out someone who knows better than you. Go or your child’s guidance counselor or pediatrician for support.
What “Long Line” do you want your children to come from???