Time to stop whining to your shrink about the way you were raised.
According to researcher Judith Rich Harris’s book The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, it’s your DNA and your friends that made you the cool guy– or the total jerk– that you are today.
Believe it or not, your mom and pop barely influenced you at all.
That’s right. As far as anyone knows, parents have little to no effect on the personality, intelligence or mental health of their children.
In a recent interview Harris said that when she started writing about her “parents don’t matter” theory back in 1998, she half expected the scientific world to disprove her claim immediately. Nearly two decades later, science has yet to find any shred of evidence that parents actions have any significant effect on what their child turns out to be like as an adult.
Harris’s ironclad, nearly 20-year-old idea is so shocking that the media hasn’t really covered it much.
The concept that parents don’t matter is so counter-intuitive that it seems almost ridiculous.
Our culture wants us to believe that kids are clueless, helpless and as impressionable as putty. Yet, science has shown that kids will inevitably figure out the world for themselves– regardless of what their parents do or say.
If you believe that the way you treat your kid will influence the way he or she turns out, read on to discover 7 reasons why you’re completely wrong.
1. It’s all about DNA.
The old saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is true. Most kids look and act like their parents.
Studies have shown that personality is 50 percent genetic. Children act like their mom and dad not because their parents raised them in a certain way, but because they were born with their parents genes.
2. Children change the way they act depending on who is around.
As soon as your kid leaves the house, all of those manners and wholesome values you’ve been teaching them go right out the window.
When the environment changes, so does your child’s behavior. If the rules they follow at home don’t make sense at school, kids quickly figure out new ways to behave that will allow them to succeed and fit in.
The two-faced way that kids operate makes total sense in terms of evolution. Human behavior is super flexible. If we homo sapiens weren’t experts at adapting, we probably wouldn’t have made it out of the Ice Age.
3. A child’s ability to influence his or her parents is extremely underrated.
Parents shouldn’t take any credit (or blame) for their well-behaved (or naughty) sons and daughters.
The biggest influence on child behavior is genetics. Some infants fuss and cry a lot, but others don’t. Parents don’t have anything to do with their baby’s temperament.
When babies grow into toddlers, much of their behavior continues to be influenced by their genes.
The way parents act toward their children largely depends on what their kids DNA is like. People tend to notice that parents who are nice to their kids end up with a nice child. But nobody pays attention to the simple fact that it’s much easier to be nice to a kid who is already nice by nature.
Some kids are naturally bratty. A naturally defiant child is going to get treated harshly by default. Bad apples continue breaking the rules when they get older, which is why they often end up getting in trouble with the law when they reach adulthood.
By the same token, well-behaved kids are naturally willing to cooperate with their parents. “Good” kids are literally built to obey the rules their parents set up for them to follow. The urge to go with the flow is written into their genetic code.
4. Second generation immigrants always end up speaking their friends’ language.
If parents are the most influential force that shapes adult personality, then bilingual kids should favor whatever language is spoken at home. But that’s simply not true!
When an immigrant family arrives in a new country, the kids quickly learn how to speak whatever language they are exposed to at at school. Unless they are exposed to a second language after elementary school, they will learn to speak the new language perfectly.
What happens next is that the second language takes over. Whatever language they were taught at home gets tossed aside.
Kids will eventually insist on speaking to their parents in English, instead of Hungarian or Korean. Whatever language they picked up at school will become their native language.
A bilingual kid’s second language– the language they learn from their friends– will become the language that they will think in when they try to figure out problems.
5. Children are hard-wired to reject their parents teachings.
A child’s mind naturally creates a worldview that matches up with the current environment. Second-hand lessons taught to kids by their parents simply aren’t very important. It’s what kids learn every day from the world outside the home that tends to stick with them.
The idea that children favor personal experience over parental guidance makes sense in terms of evolution. Think about the children of our cavemen ancestors. The ones who stubbornly insisted on believing in their parents out-of-date ideas about reality were probably less fit to survive in a world that’s always changing.
6. Birth order doesn’t matter.
The oldest child in the family is the go-getter. The middle one is the peacemaker. The youngest child is the life of the party.
Everyone has heard about these kind of stereotypes before.
As it turns out, birth order only matters inside the family. Research has shown that outside the family environment, children act in totally different ways.
Birth order does not predict adult behavior or personality in any way.
7. The more parents change, the more kids stay the same.
Parenting styles have changed dramatically over the years. In the early part of the 20th century, corporal punishment was acceptable. It was okay to hit your kid with a wood spoon or a belt when they misbehaved. Back then, parents rarely showed affection towards their children.
Today’s parents are totally different. They shower their children with affection. Instead of spanking kids when they act up, parents revoke video game privileges or issue “time outs.”
Despite the drastic change in parenting philosophy, modern children aren’t any less naughty. Also, today’s teens are just as angsty and insecure as ever.
Rates of childhood depression and suicide weren’t affected at all by the huge changes in parenting behavior that have occurred over the last century.
The fact that parenting styles have changed but children remain the same is perhaps the most convincing reason why how you treat your kid really doesn’t matter in the long run.