Copycat: Children learn what they live
Emma Dalton-Brown, Gleaner Writer
Children learn in various ways, depending on the age and stage they are at. They have a tendency to soak up the world around them, more so than a large sponge in water. My 14-month-old son is a prime example, but it still never ceases to amaze me when he remembers the most bizarre details. Just the other day, I was reading him a new book, in which a baby loses his teddy bear. In one picture you can see the teddy bear is stuck under a cart. Well, every time I turn to this page, my little chap points to the hiding bear!
This, of course, is not unusual for a small toddler, though I'd like to think that mine is extremely advanced! After all, he makes 'vroom' noises when he plays with his plastic cars, pushes his play lawnmower over the grass, kicks his Jabulani football upon sight, goes to the kitchen when he's hungry, goes to the puppy chow container when he thinks the dogs are hungry, and whines for his toothbrush if he sees anyone else using theirs! Top-notch intelligence, I tell you.
The truth of the matter is that human beings love to follow fashion. We are slaves to technology and clothing trends, diets suggested in the media and by our friends, and even methods of teaching our offsprings. The motivations for emulating others vary according to our individual personalities and needs. The youngest people copy what they see with the utmost of innocence. The rest of us know better, and choose to use our morals, or not, deciding whether to do something, or not.
Due to the fact that kids are likely to mimic their parents, it is our responsibility to nurture this, screening inappropriate behaviour and language. I will not lie to you - I have used expletives in my 30-something years. How offensive they've been is open for debate! However, it's not cool if my baby boy starts saying, 'Damn' (not that he has, but I'd like to keep it that way). When it comes to the issue of actions, there are a few grey areas. Allowing my son to watch me cutting up the vegetables, and cooking them, hardly makes me a bad parent; but I certainly don't want him to get hold of my kitchen knives, or start playing with the fire.
Let them help
That being said, participating in the general cleaning of the house, like sweeping and tidying up, is absolutely fine. And while one might be in a rush when doing such chores, it's a good thing to let your toddlers help out. First of all, it's great training for the future, even for the boys, by the way, because it does NOT make them any less of a man! Second, you kill two birds with one stone - neat house and occupied child! Bargain!
The most important lesson we should be teaching our progeny, I believe, is how to treat those around us. We don't necessarily have to instruct, so to speak, but more like lead by example. The little loves of our hearts will inevitably mirror what we do. I was recently talking to psychologist Shelley Hall, who suggested that my husband and I buy our son a doll. She emphatically states that all children will benefit from having a doll to play with, as it is good practice for how to treat others. "You will notice the child treating the doll in a similar manner to how he or she is treated. It is good to encourage loving behaviour and name any negative behaviour. For example, you might say: 'Oh no, you are feeling angry, so you are rough with your baby. Sorry, baby. Let's give baby some love. We love our baby'."
The irony of this advice is that at some point my son will go to school, and he and his peers will tease each other for being a copycat!