Modeling behavior: how children copy their parents

Modeling behavior: how children copy their parents

All normal children try to copy what their parents are doing. Children mostly learn by watching and trying to imitate what an adult does. Sometimes, the person they copy doesn’t have to be the people around them — models can be friends, teachers, or even movie characters.

What is modeling of behavior?
Behavior modeling is a natural learning process whereby someone observes the behavior of another and then imitates it. It is sometimes called observational learning or social learning. This form of learning needs no direct instruction, and most of the time, the model doesn’t even know that someone is learning from them.

There are four steps in modeling of behavior:

  1. Attention: Your child is observing what you are doing
  2. Retention: The child understands and remembers your behavior
  3. Reproduction: Your child tries to replicate what they remember
  4. Motivation: This is what prompts your child to imitate the action — the more your child looks up to the model, the stronger the motivation (that’s why babies copy toddlers and teenager popstars)

Which behavior do children model?
Children are more likely to model a behavior where there is some form of reinforcement for it. For instance, if your child sees another child jump down the stairs and get praised for it, they are more likely to copy this behavior. But if the child was scolded or ignored for jumping down, they are less likely to copy the behavior.

While they mostly learn from you and other kids around, children can also learn from YouTube videos and movie characters. We, therefore, should be mindful of what a child watches. On TV, bad and aggressive behaviors are often reinforced, which means your child may tend to imitate them. 

Tips for using modeling to teach positive behaviors:

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