Stop Blaming Your Parents

February 15, 2016| Christine Simko

In an age of designer puppies and babies, when all it takes is a pocket full o’cash and big ideas on who your perfect baby embodies, then voila! One can concoct test tube newborns by mixing them up just like the local bartender would shake an extra dirty martini.

With everything considering, you could say science has come quite-a-ways (just as the debate with stem cell research continues). Parents now have the control they’ve always hoped in picking the child that they always wanted… But some people agree that parents had the option to choose who their baby becomes all along- way before science afforded them the luxury.

Heredity and Nature. Or as I grew up knowing it as: Nature v.s. Nurture. They say a child will become the person he/she is meant to become through a combination of his genes and his/her environment (We all know this spiel from 10th grade biology). But did you know early on, researchers have seriously debated the relative importance of “nature” or genetic predisposition, and “nurture,” or environment, in the development of personalities and behavior? First off, this sort of science stems from Freud’s odd research about kids having an obsession with their parents coupled with the theory of behaviorism. Taken from Judith Rich Harris’ book, The Nurture Assumption;

“The true father of the nurture assumption was Sigmund Freud. It was Freud who constructed, pretty much out of whole cloth, an elaborate scenario in which all the psychological ills of adults could be traced back to things that happened to them when they were quite young and in which their parents were heavily implicated. According to Freudian theory, two parents of opposite sexes cause untold anguish in the young child, simply by being there. The anguish is unavoidable and universal; even the most conscientious parents cannot prevent it, though they can easily make it worse. All little boys have to go through the Oedipal crisis; all little girls go through the reduced-for-quick-sale female version. The mother (but not the father) is also held responsible for two earlier crises: weaning and toilet training. Freudian theory was quite popular in the first half of the twentieth century; it even worked its way into Dr. Spock’s famous book on baby and child care: ‘Parents can help children through this romantic but jealous stage by gently keeping it clear that the parents do belong to each other, that a boy can’t ever have his mother to himself or a girl have a father to herself.”

Now allow me to touch a little bit on behaviorism, as written in The Nuture Assumption;

“Others reacted by going to the opposite extreme, dumping out the baby with the bathwater. Behaviorism, a school of psychology that was popular in American universities in the 1940s and ‘50s, was in part a reaction to Freudian theory. The behaviorists rejected almost everything in Freud’s philosophy: the sex and the violence, the id and the superego, even the conscious mind itself. Curiously, though, they accepted the basic premise of Freudian theory: that what happens in early childhood — a time when parents are bound to be involved in whatever is going on — is crucial. They threw out the script of Freud’s psychodrama but retained its cast of characters. The parents still get leading roles, but they no longer play the parts of sex objects and scissor-wielders. Instead, the behaviorists’ script turns them into conditioners of responses or dispensers of rewards and punishments.”

Essentially, John B. Watson (the first prominent behaviorist) noticed that people when parenting are not consistent in the way they condition their children’s responseses and offered to demonstrate how to do the job “properly”. The demonstration would involve raising twelve young humans under carefully controlled research lab conditions:

“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”

Fortunately for the infants, no one responded to his cattle call therefore his research has gone un-proved. A more realistic approach was taken to behaviorism and its theories with B.F. Skinner, who instead of conditioning responses the child was born with, decided to create new ones through a reinforcing via a simple reward system.

It’s been nearly 17 years since Judith Rich Harris published her controversial book called The Nuture Assumption where Harris examines her firm belief that ‘Nuture’ is just that- an assumption- what matters it the influence of peers outside of the home as that is what will determine the adult personality.

When we are kids our parents are our whole world, our sun, moon and stars. We look up to them in so many ways; to not only provide us with food water and shelter- but also to give us the hugs and kisses we need to be happy. During our childhood our parents helped us figure out what life is about by answering our incessant “whys” (and strangely, they never seemed to grow tired of amusing us by answering them). As a result of their efforts, they became our rockstars who could do no wrong- or our “fairytale princess” as I once told my mom. But this phenomenon doesn’t last.

The only thing that we can 100% validate- as Freud partially theorized- is that our entire lives really are focused on our obsession with our parents… although obsessed in a different, less creepy way. As we age into adulthood we learn to read between the lines of our childhood and all of our parentally-guided, learned behavior. We compare and contrast those misguided behaviors them to our newly-formed, young adult experiences and then are left to ponder the painful gaps in-between what we were taught versus harsh reality. Truly, people consistantly blame their parents for everything.

I recently read another fellow blogger quoting

“I believe you could define true adulthood as relinquishing the narcissistic and childish expectations of what our parents should have provided for us, and what they should have accomplished in raising us.”
“True adulthood is letting go of the notion that mom and dad somehow gave us all of our problems and admitting that, regardless of where they came from, our problems are our own, that we are responsible for ourselves, and while we can’t control our genetics or our life history, we can always control what we do based on them. True adulthood occurs when we realize that our parents didn’t dig the hole that we find ourselves in today, but rather that they’ve been trying to climb out themselves their whole lives. That the abuser was once the abused. That the neglecter was once the neglected.It’s not all their fault. To be honest, at some point, it doesn’t even matter whose fault it is. Because it’s always your responsibility. So if it’s a big hole, start climbing.”

— Mark Manson

For some real-life inspiration, watch this video about a man who grew up with a drug addict father and the life-changing struggles he’s been forced to overcome himself. Listen as he tells his story in “spoken word poetry”, a therapeutic developmental tool for at-risk youth.

If you want some real help, Berkeley.edu recommends the following health steps in taking to overcome childhood trauma and strengthen your relationship with your family- and yourself:

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