Why do the kids imitate what they see or hear?


9 February, 2017


The minute I pick up the phone to talk to anyone, my little one takes her toy phone and diligently repeats whatever she hears me talk. In the same tone too!! I go to the kitchen to wash rice or roll the chapattis; she immediately tags behind wanting to do it. Mopping the house, washing laundry, using the laptop – she wants to do it all. It is fun to watch her do it, it also shows how much she has learnt and developed as a kid and an individual. 

Homes are children’s’ first schools. Parents are their first teachers. Whatever basics they learn are from their parents. They consider parents as their perfect role models. They are very keen observers and have very high grasping powers. The moment they see something new, they want to learn about it and use it. When they see parents using certain objects for a purpose, they immediately want to do the same. And that is how they learn. Imitation follows a four-step process: watching and listening, processing the information, attempting to copy, and practicing. The moment a kid sees that dad takes the remote to switch on the TV, his brain associates it with ON/OFF mechanism. His brain is slowly registering that the remote is indeed used to control the TV. The next time he lays his hands on the remote, he tries to do what dad did, to see if he gets the same result. When he does, he wants to show off on how well he does it. The attention they get on imitating encourages them to do more of it!

Children learn a lot from parents’ behavior. They see you interact with the shop keeper, the neighborhood aunt, the local vendor. They try to mimic the same, thus learning conversation skills and social interaction. They learn what is acceptable in the society, and what is not. A kid’s behavior is direct reflection of his/her parents’. When they see us shout to get something done, they register it as the norm. They will shout too. If we are polite in our ways, kids will automatically learn to be polite. 

Imitation is another way of showing their interest in bonding with the parent, wanting to be like the parent. A toddler trying to work on the laptop like his dad, little girls wanting to dress up like their moms are a common sight. It is no surprise when we see our little ones dress up like us, wearing office tags, wanting to go to office just like dad and mom J They want to be with the parent, and show their needs by doing what they do!

Imitating plays a significant role in language development too. From a very early age, children lip read and try to repeat whatever sounds they hear from parents. Constant repetition of words like “mama” and “papa” registers in their brain. They know whom to call what, and slowly bring themselves to repeat what they hear. That is how they learn the language.

Imitation also showcases overall development and is a stepping-stone to independence. When they try to do something that mom/dad does and repeat it, they would be like “Wow, I can do it too. Isn’t that great? I will try it again!” They learn that they have control. Eventually, as they develop, they begin to go a step further from imitation – act out of self-motivation.

Parents of toddlers are under constant observation. They need to be very careful in how they conduct themselves and what they talk. Yes, it can be pressurizing at times. As much fun or stressful it seems, it is our responsibility to teach them good behavior. It is very important for elders to be good role models. Using words like “Please” and “thank you” are good ways to instill good mannerisms. Discourage imitation of bad habits. Distract when necessary. Lastly, do not forget to praise and compliment them for the right imitation behavior!

Age 2-4 years Parenting
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