Children are undiscerning imitators. They copy the social environment they are exposed to by observation and assimilation. The neurons in their developing brain are being wired. Their personality is developing. Imitation serves as both a learning and a social function because new skills and knowledge are acquired Communication skills are improved by interacting with their immediate social circle.
Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget noted that children in this developmental phase he called the sensorimotor stage (a period which lasts up to the first two years of a child) begin to imitate observed actions. During this important stage of development, a child is beginning associate behaviors with actions.
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Beware Your Child Is Watching
You cannot teach your child good behavior if you as a parent behave inconsistently. They are watching your every move. A parent who does one thing but expects or demands the opposite from a child shouldn’t be surprised if their children turn out unruly. There are no bad kids, only terrible parents.
Advice From The Indian Sage Thiruvalluvar
The importance of parents being aware of their actions on their kids was highlighted by the celebrated Indian sage Thiruvalluvar. In his well-known treatise, Thirukkuṛaḷ, which is a collection of couplets on ethics and life. He has the following advice for parents which is relevant even today, though it was written sometime around 300 BCE to 7th century CE.
- If your children lie to you often, it is because you over-react too harshly to their inappropriate behavior.
- If your children are not taught to confide in you about their mistakes, you’ve lost them.
- If your children had poor self-esteem, it is because you advice them more than you encourage them.
- If your children take things that do not belong to them, it is because when you buy them things, you don’t let them chose what they want.
- If your children are cowardly, it is because you help them too quickly.
- If your children do not respect other people’s feelings, it is because instead of speaking, you order & command them.
- If your children are too quick to anger, it is because you give too much attention to misbehavior & you give little attention to good behavior.
- If your children are excessively jealous, it is because you congratulate them only when they successfully complete something & not when they improve at something even if they don’t successfully complete it
- If your children intentionally disturb you, it is because you are not physically affectionate enough.
- If your children are openly defiant, it is because you openly threaten to do something but don’t follow through.
- If your child is secretive, it is because they are sure that you would blow things out of proportion.
- If your children back-answer to you, it is because they watch you do it to others & think it’s normal behavior.
- If your children don’t listen to you but listen to others, it is because you are too quick to jump to conclusions.
- If your children rebel it is because they know you care more about what others think than what is right.
So parents, if your child is behaving badly, you need to do an honest self-analysis and understand how you could have contributed to this woeful state. The delinquent teenager is usually a product of the environment he has grown up in.
Their mirror neurons have imbibed the words and actions of the significant influences in their environment. Those are usually the parents or immediate family. It is difficult to unschool a nearly grown adult. As adults raising kids, we have to be mindful of living consistently and morally.