News Karnataka
Friday, May 20 2022
Know Your Child

Good/bad, through modelling is how children learn behaviour

Children are like wet cement, whatever falls on them makes an impression. Their behaviours are always learned through observation, and imitation. They first pay attention to actions that are observed, then either reflect or model those behaviours when it motivates them. Hence it is important to know what they are exposed to, and also people who they interact with everyday.

You might have noticed your young children imitate father’s walking style or pretend to vacuum the living room or paraphrase their teacher’s words at home. They might also act like king or queen whom they admire from the cartoon series. Sometimes they include these actions while playing with their friends or neighbours.

Among teenagers this modelling is quite unique. They try to inspire their peer group, and thus imitate celebrities or famous personalities. Meanwhile they also observe their parents’ actions. Hence observation turns into modelling of behaviour and parents or the primary care-givers become their first role models. Thus it is necessary that one becomes a great role model.

However, the problem with these picking up of actions are, the negative or mal-adaptive behaviours too are easily picked, learnt and imitated. At times parents even wonder how and from where these unacceptable behaviours are learnt though they provide healthy environment at home.

Surprisingly, parents further provide a path which only increases unfavourable behaviours by constantly repeating these mistakes.

1. Providing reinforcement for bad/unfavourable behaviours

Reinforcement or rewards play an important role in shaping the behaviour. A child might do a task only when there is reward. But when the same child throws tantrum you might immediately provide the reinforcement just to stop the behaviour. Let us illustrate this with an example. A parent says no more candy if you say bad words but then he/she might get a candy immediately after throwing tantrum. In this case due to inconsistency in providing rewards children use throwing tantrum as a weapon to get what they want. This per se do not reduce the bad behaviour.

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2. Hitting or yelling

Parents might think that hitting or yelling might reduce the bad behaviour but it is temporary solution. Children need to understand the consequences of a bad behaviour but not by these method instead it will only add up few more anti-social behaviours in line. Children will learn the same after watching how you behave with them or siblings. They pick up hitting or yelling and experiment it with their siblings or fellow mates. Instead of this, communicate the consequences of bad behaviour with them and also make them aware about the concept of solving a problem with calm and peaceful approach.

3. Emotional blackmail/ threatening

Mostly children get blackmailed or threatened for not behaving well. If you continue to do this your father will feel sad, or mother will cry or I will complain to the teacher will make the child to stop it for a while. But then he/she will wonder about his/her needs and prioritise them first. The worst thing about doing this is, your child too is picking up the same behaviour from you. In this case children try to blackmail their parents to get the things they need. A teenager might threaten a parent that he will leave the house if he did not get his favourite bike.

4. Laughing or entertaining the child

This is one of the most common mistakes every parent does. Entertaining your children for their unfavourable behaviours considering their age, and gender. It is obviously fun to watch your child singing loudly and jumping on the sofa in a public restaurant but definitely not a desirable one for others. Etiquette and manners are told at an early age so that children will learn the right from wrong. How do you show the etiquette matters a lot to the child.

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You can’t tell the child to keep away the phone, or complain about it unless you put it down first. Children are able to learn social behaviour such as aggression, empathy, caring, and sharing through the process of observation, and learning through watching the behaviour of another person. Therefore, parents need to showcase good behaviour and shape children’s behaviours.

Image by fancycrave1 

Ramya E.

The author is a counselor and lifeskills trainer who has trained over 2000 students. She holds an M.Sc. in Psychology.

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