There are plenty of studies about how much each of these two factors can influence our personality, our behavior and who we are in general. Genetics play a great deal, but the environment where we grow and develop ourselves has a lot of say in our self too. The complex interaction between these two aspects was the focus of many recent studies that concluded we face a great unpredictability regarding the way they influence each other (Gopnik, 2016).
We can extrapolate this to the parents-children relationship: children have a certain influence over their parents’ behavior, as well as do the parents have influence over their children’s behavior, but this doesn’t mean we can seemingly predict what one of the parts will do, just by observing the other one’s behavior.
The truth is that there is another point of great relevance that seems to make all the difference: resilience. A child with great resilience can endure and resist in any kind of environment, as well as, a child with low resilience might have problems even if he or she lives with the “perfect” family. That’s why we have children from complicated environments that become productive, independent and happy adults and children coming from good environments who end up becoming troublemakers.
We are models for the young ones, there is no doubt, but they will observe our behavior, our actions, try to understand how things work out and finally live their lives, formulate their behavior and act according to their own personality and will.
So… what is the parents function after all?
Protective Parents. Let’s mold him our way
Nowadays, it’s quite common what we call helicopter parents, which tends to mean the parent that overprotects their child. Let me tell you, as a mother, that it’s perfectly normal to have the temptation of protecting them from everything and raise them in a bubble where nothing can hurt them. It’s our instinct, but it’s the worst thing you could do…
Individually, they’ll become fearful and unadapted. We want our children to have the best they can, but the world will not be easy on them, so… the faster they learn to solve problems, the better.
Socially, we’ll be raising a big problem for our society. Yes, we can’t forget that our children are members of a society, even a species and they have their own part and stake in. The most difficult of it all is: we don’t know what part will that be.
Children, they are a fundamental piece of the evolutionary system. They take what we give them and transform it, make it evolve, in order to solve new problems they have to face. If we protect them from everything and don’t let them “expand”, they will not be able to do this. Gopnik (2016) says “We give children the resources, tools and, the infrastructure they need to solve problems we haven’t even thought of yet.”
Social Environment and Intergenerational Transmission
Social is a word that might define the human being. Each person has an important need for belonging… children are not different. The social environment and the models a child gets through his or her life are key pieces of how that child will survive and adapt later on. They learn from us, but also transform what they see according to their personality.
Learning is the way children evolve, but it’s also the way they adapt to the world. That learning process is especially received from other people. The adults have, this way, an important role to play and they have to adapt to it as well. This adaptation will provide them the tools to take care of and teach their children. According to Gopnik (2016), “many biologists think those facts played a major role in our evolutionary success.”
First psychologists believed that our brains developed abilities to solve specific problems, but that vision had long since changed over time. Nowadays, “more and more theorist point to the evolution of wide-ranging and broad-based kinds of learning and cultural transmission” (Gopnik, 2016). This will provide us with the ability to develop new cognitive skills to solve unexpected problems.
Children also have a great role in maintaining tradition. The truth is that the intergenerational transmission is also quite important for human development. How? Feedback loops. They will provide us the possibility to evaluate, improve and adapt, something impossible to have happened without the previous generations acquired knowledge.
We still don’t know for sure how this interaction, between the two forces of innovation and imitation, works. However, it is obvious that in each generation, both make an appearance and a contribution, thus getting our species to evolve and survive. Sometimes little things can make the difference, a slightly different way of doing something can turn out to later on, throughout generations, represent a massive change for all of us.