Nature versus Nurture: Why My Child’s Learning Development is a Product of the Environment I Create
This article provides helpful information regarding nature versus nurture and how a child’s environment can encourage their academic potential. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
There are countless studies and research papers on the subject of nature versus nurture. Is it our genetic predisposition or our environment that gives us the largest part of who we are? As a psychology major, I completed my share of nature versus nurture papers and studies. Many times, coming to a conclusion varies greatly among individuals, but both components play major parts in the human scheme. Let’s take a slight turn from the normal biological versus environmental argument and discuss how this topic plays into how a child learns in school.
The Effects of Positive Thinking
Are children born smart or do they accumulate intelligence through experiences with a simulated environment and hard work? One study from Michigan State University shows that when people believe that they gain intelligence through hard work instead of genetic makeup, it literally changes the brain and may cause them to strive for success. It suggests that the subtle messages that we give kids, such as positive reinforcements with homework and telling them they can learn new things and achieve at any subject, can really affect the way their brain responds. Giving children messages that both motivates and encourages learning may promote competent performance in school. In contrast, if the notion that the child’s intelligence is relatively fixed on genetics, this may inadvertently affect the child’s learning potential.
Many times you can tell the difference between those that have a desire to learn and those that are content in their progression.
Is Mentality Learned or Inherited
The child’s mentality or temperament has a great deal to do with how they learn; or the attitude they have to learn. What part of the child’s disposition is credited with being inherited and what part is learned? For decades, many believed that personality and intelligence were mostly made up by our genetic material and that not much changed (or could be changed) in the developmental years. However, over time, the pendulum has swung, and those in research fields who were convinced that the environment had a large influence on the child, were correct.
As public attention has grown, we now recognize that heredity is responsible for approximately 30 to 60 percent of wiring a child’s brain and 40 to 70 percent contribute to environmental factors. (Teaching With The Brain In Mind) The variability depends on the specific behavior or trait (for example baldness versus being a good listener).
This if often manifested with students that have a desire to learn and those that are content in their progression. If they are in an environment where learning is encouraged, the child often excels academically. If the child is opposed to doing the hard work placed before them to enhance their learning development, they often fall behind and the learning gaps become wider.
Is Attitude Inherent?
How much temperament towards school is learned? How much attitude towards learning is inherited? A Harvard Psychologist, Jerome Kagan, has studied babies extensively and says it’s about half and half. In Teaching With The Brain In Mind, Eric Jensen, a former teacher, discusses the following:
“The genetic part of our behavior is governed from our developing midbrain area. But the first 24 months of child-raising provides the difference between several dramatically different and possible futures.”
When we take a look at those possible futures, it begins with parents that recognize an appropriate amount of risk taking and freedom that usually promotes a more courageous, curious child. On the flip side, parents who are fearful and project their anxieties onto the child could be placing mental and physical limitations without meaning to. (Kagan, 1994)
Parental Influence on Learning
Some brain development occurs because it happens naturally. Babies will do things that every other baby does because of natural growth and development. In other ways, babies flourish differently, depending upon experiences and opportunities. We can count on nature to take care of many skills. For example, babies will learn to roll over without a parent showing them how to, but the child cannot learn to roll over if they are constantly in a baby seat or carrier.
In Teaching With The Brain In Mind, Jensen states:
“…we must follow a cardinal rule when it comes to appreciating how the brain reacts to certain influences: Start by removing threats from the learning environment. No matter how excited you are about adding positives to the environment, first word to eliminate the negatives. Those include, embarrassment, finger-pointing, unrealistic deadlines, forcing kids to stay after school, humiliation, sarcasm, a lack of resources, or simply being bullied. There is no evidence that threats are an effective way to meet long-term academic goals. Once threats are gone, we can go to work on the enrichment process.”
Simple Ways to Encourage a Learning Culture
A few simple ways to support a stronger learning culture and environment in your home includes the following:
- Take an interest in what the child is doing at school
- Talk with extended family members and have them be supportive and positive with your child’s learning experiences
- Limit electronics
- Talk, sing and read to your child from day one
- Encourage your child to express their opinions and emotions
- Show enthusiasm for subjects that you are learning about (for example, a new cooking class, woodworking 101 or new gardening tips)
- Help your child organize schoolwork and homework. This will help the child feel that they are in control of their own work
Most experts agree that nature and nurture go hand in hand. A child will learn to open their mouth to form sounds without the adult showing them how to open their mouth. A child will not, however, learn to talk if no one talks to them.
It is interesting how nature and nurture create this dance together. A child’s brain must be healthy and it must receive the proper nutrients to hit different milestones in the developmental years. Although neural connections naturally take place in the brain, we must understand it is not enough. The child must be given the opportunities in the environment to excel. Each child must be handed the belief that it takes more than smart genes to become intelligent. Finally, the child must be in an environment that offers experiences and positive reinforcement, without the negative threats sometimes associated with the learning experience.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
07 Jan 2019 - Development