August 14th, 2008, 12:33 pm
Every parent of a child must read But I Did Everything Right! right fucking now. And then take a deep sigh of relief and acceptance.
It reads, in part:
If there is one thing experts on child development agree on, it is that kids learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes and feel the consequences. […] But not, it seems, all kids. In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. [Italics added – glichen.]
We knew, the moment Eldest Daughter came into our lives at the advanced age of one month, that she was a strongly self-willed person who would take what she liked of our influence, and reject what didn’t make sense. You know things about your own children the same way: that this one responds to this set of actions, that one to that set, and this other is sweet and placid and has a whim of titanium.
It’s always more things than one, or even two. Nature, nurture and environment. And we need these other kids, these “Can’t learn from mistakes” kids: They are John Sheppard, they are Audey Murphy, they are all the adventurers and inventors and pilots and soldiers and scientists who are constitutionally incapable of taking “no” for an answer, for taking “can’t” as a solution, of giving up, of abandoning “try, try again.”
Eventually, but not in my lifetime, we will incorporate this knowledge into our Justice System, and evaluate the convicted by the responses of which they are capable when we sentence them. (Probably not until all of the generations prior to, and including, my own are dead dead dead; but it will eventually happen.)
Let me point you to a segment late in the article:
Most researchers who study child development were trained as psychologists, and—to overgeneralize, but only a little—are uncomfortable with or even suspicious of genetics. Geneticists tend to see behavioral research as squishy, not hard science. That produces a body of scientific literature that is remarkably ignorant of genetics. As we reported in this story, we were struck by how clueless so many “experts” in child development were about the new genetics—and how resistant they were to it. Almost all were unaware of the studies showing that genetics acts as a filter between environment and child, letting some influences in and keeping others out.
What this means is that you are the first expert on your child, because you have the primary interest and the primary impulse to observe.
Not every parent, true. But you, and I, and our circle: we have to know:
There are things we can do. And there are things that no one can do anything about.