A new wife wanted to prepare her first Thanksgiving dinner. The night before, she remembers to put the turkey in the sink to thaw overnight. She places the turkey in the sink and places a dish rack over it.
Her husband asked her about the dish rack, and the wife responded saying that it was how her mother always did it. That night, she calls her mother and proudly tells her of her preparation.
“I even remembered to place the dish rack over the turkey to help it thaw,” said the woman.
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone before her mother inquired why she had done that.
The woman responded saying that she always remembered her mother placing the turkey in the sink then placing the dish rack on top.
After a brief moment of laughter, the mother responds, “Yes, but Honey, we have cats!”
Children learn by imitating adults. They look up to us and will copy our behaviors (whether we want them to or not). Just earlier tonight my 5 year old put on my black socks and shoes.
She always loves to try to do things that she sees her mother or me do. The same goes for the 3 year old as well. She loves to take care of her baby dolls just like mommy does the baby. She’s even tried to nurse them from time to time. Children love to do what we do. It’s innate, and it’s how they learn about the world around them.
In fact, human children are known to do this more than other species. One study had adults showing children how to open a box. The researchers threw in unnecessary steps such as rubbing a stick across the top of the box then using the stick to pull the knob (a task that was more easily accomplished using one’s hands).
Even when the children were familiar with the box and how to open it, many of them imitated the unnecessary steps when asked to open the box.
Why? Children view adults as authorities. They seem to assume that there must be a reason for doing something a certain way even when it’s not obvious to them what that reason is.
Show a chimpanzee how to open the same box with the unnecessary steps, and he’ll skip to just pulling the knob. So ‘child see, child do’ may be more appropriate than the old saying ‘monkey see, monkey do’…
So if you want to raise “good” children, be “good” adults. Model the behavior you want your children to emulate.
When it comes to children and their understanding of the world, actions, your actions, really do speak louder than words.
If you want your child to be kind to strangers, model this behavior for them.
If you want your child to clean up after themselves, show them how.
If you don’t want your child to yell and scream when she’s upset, don’t yell and scream when you’re upset.
Nothing confuses a child more than when they are told not to do something and yet see you doing it. At least not without a reasonable explanation.
My daughters know that they cannot drink soda. My wife drinks soda almost daily. We have explained to them that this is something they may partake in when they are older.
They understand. Don’t underestimate your child’s capacity to learn and understand things. I have and will never tell my child, “because I said so” when they ask my why.
(And they ask ‘why’ a lot!) Be patient. This will also teach your children to have more patience and tolerance of others. At least I hope so. Let’s face it- 5 year olds are not tolerant of much.
They are still developing, and having an understanding of that will help you as well.