Is Genetics our Destiny, —or Not?
By Jahiel Yasha Kamhi
Recently, I was talking to an angry parent. He was upset with his son’s behaviour, his marks in school and his lack of desire to achieve any goal.
“I don’t blame my son, but I blame my family’s ‘bad genes’. My son is like my father. How can I expect anything better from my son? Am I right?”
In short, the point of this angry father’s comments was that genes are responsible for his son’s problems. Actually, the disappointed father raised a very important question:” Is genetics our destiny,- or not?”
Let us see what science has to say about this dilemma.
Neuroscience is a good place to go and learn how the brain, biology and education work.
The real questions could be, “Are we, as healthy newborns, born equally at birth? Do we have the same potential, or does everything depend on our genetic makeup? “
According to scientific information, all healthy newborns have the same capacity at birth. They are born with roughly 100 billion brain’s cells (neurons).
What’ makes the difference in a human’s life is not the number of neurons, but what he or she learns through life.
During the process of learning, children are changing the shape of their brain, and most importantly, they improve their intelligence. A child is not born as an “intelligent person”; a child becomes that way due to many other factors, not just because of genes.
Intelligence only partially results from genes, but mostly results from other very complex things. Sure, genes play a role in life, but the crucial factor for developing full potential is children’s own social environment and ability to learn new information. We can improve a child’s intelligence, if we know how to do that.
Children learn how to study, or how to have proper behaviour from their role models. Children can change and improve themselves, with the help of adults.
Do not take genes as a limitation or an excuse.
As we have already said, all healthy newborn babies have roughly the same amount of brain cells.
However, there is one misconception about brain cells (neurons). How smart we are does not depend on the number of neurons. It depends on the number of synapses.
As we can learn from www.brain.ubc.ca, “A synapse is the basic unit of communication in the brain, and research on synaptic function is central to understanding how we think and learn. Building the correct network of synapses is essential for brain development “.
Can we add more synapses into children’s brains? Yes, we can. How? Very simply: just by helping them learn and memorize new skills. The process of making more synapses is actually the process of learning.
Children have an enormous capacity to learn. Exposing a child to new learning means making more synapses, which makes a child smarter.
Conclusion: Is our angry father, from the example above, right in blaming genes for his son’s problems?
Children’s destinies depend on, but are not limited by genes. The only limit is the ability to develop more synapses by learning and memorizing more and more facts. Stimulating the social environment, physical activity and a good diet will support optimal function of children’s cognitive abilities.
It’ is possible that a child came to school with poor behaviour, but it’ is always possible to do something about that, as well.
Blaming genes for everything is simply-- wrong. We are not born with good or bad behaviour, with or without motivation, or as a cleaver and successful person.
No, we became that. At birth, we come with an equal opportunity to reach our maximum. There is no limitation because of genes, race, gender or social status. As parents we need to make an adequate environment for our children; a system of support and belief, self-esteem, and the ability to develop brain potential.
Without love and attention from parents, children can not reach their maximum. Blaming genes for not developing full potential or for not being able to utilise a good education is just an excuse.
Our goal should be how to help children to get the most out of their brains, and improve their quality of life. We need to help children to stay engaged and active, setting short-term and long -term goals for them.
Of course, we know; there are hundreds of malformations and sicknesses at birth due to “bad genes”, but we are not talking about pathology here. We are talking about the healthy population whose parents complain and blame genes for their children not reaching their maximum.
For each healthy child who comes into this world, what happens after birth is crucial, not just what happen atbirth.
Jahiel’s mission is to promote a good mental and physical health.
Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org