Modeling and Imitation

The majority of us learned many of our skills through imitation. Someone modeled the skill for us, showing us exactly how to do it, and we imitated and learned the skill. Many children are imitative, and some children need to be explicitly taught to imitate. But, one thing that goes for all children, is that the “model” (that’s you!) matters.

With that in mind, be thoughtful about how you want your children to respond to you when you respond to them, especially during times of conflict or when problems need to be solved. When you respond to them from a place of anger by yelling or having an adult tantrum (which, let’s face it, they happen) you model that skill for them. When you take a deep breath and say calmly, “I need a minute, I’m feeling really frustrated and I need time in my room,” or “I need you to keep your feet still and stop kicking the back of my seat” calmly, you’re also modeling a skill for them.

Adults are FAR from perfect. When you mess up, apologize in a way that you expect them to apologize to you/others. Start with how you felt in the moment (to teach them to name their own emotions), genuinely apologize (to teach them integrity and to admit they were wrong), and see if there’s anything reasonable they might need from you in light of the situation like a hug, or some time together (to teach them that things can be made right, and we can move on). @meganmoir has some great posts about language you can use about yourself to model for your kids!

Modeling appropriate conflict resolution and problem solving behavior goes a LONG way. You can still be the one making the boundaries and make mistakes and model the appropriate behavior. It’s not easy, but you can do it. Enjoy your kids this week!

Written by Betsie Johnson, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA