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No, Children Don’t Always Model Their Parent’s Behaviours.

I read a meme the other day that cracked me up.

Child expert: “Children will model the behaviour that they see.”

Me: “False. They have seen me sleep, they do not sleep.” Here’s the original link to the meme.

Some child experts advise to parents, that if we just modify our behaviours, then our children will follow. And yes, it is true, our kids are watching every move we make. But, it’s not always true that kids model their parent’s behaviour. I feel bad for parents when they read this sort of stuff. I know plenty of parents who don’t yell, hit, bite or throw things… yet their children do.

I can tell you with great certainty, that I don’t ever yell at my kids to, “Get me a drink!” But sometimes my kids do… And when my two year old bashed his little one year old friend on the head… he didn’t do that because he saw me bashing someone else on the head! Kids who yell at their parents ‘I HATE YOU!’ are not necessarily saying that because they heard their parents saying the same and when kids bully, it’s not necessarily because their parents are bullies…

So where do children ‘learn’ their behaviour? And why do they act the way they do

Agression, lying, fighting, whining, not cooperating, and tantrums are not learned behaviours! When children act this way, it’s because they have an unmet need…. the need could be physical or emotional. And, a lot of times, it’s NOT our fault when our child has an unmet need. There’s no guilt here. Hurts can happen to any child, no matter how loving or attentive a family is.

Some of these annoying behaviours explained:

Children often act aggresive after they have felt powerless. And, children feel powerless a lot, especially when they are stuck in an adult’s world and have little say in their day-to-day choices. Or, when they’re in a situation where they feel vulnerable. For example, my 2 year old son is so adorable, so people poke, kiss, tickle, hug and pick him up all the time and he HATES it. I’ve noticed that after his space gets invaded, he almost instantly gets aggressive by throwing, biting, or kicking. It’s not until he has a cry to release his emotions of feeling vulnerable, that his aggression stops.

Kids lie when they’re afraid of telling the truth because they’re afraid of getting into trouble. Kids fight when they feel something isn’t fair or when they feel unheard. Children are ambassadors of fairness! If you try to train children not to fight, do you know what they do??? They end up fighting behind your back!

Kids whine and act rude, again, when they feel powerless or unheard, or upset by something. Children often won’t cooperate because they lack autonomy in their daily choices. In other words, they are simply tired of always having to comply with adult’s requests. Or, because they feel lack of connection from their parents or carers. Children tantrum when they release stress and frustration. It’s a GOOD thing when kids have a tantrum. Better out than in, we don’t need to stop it, but we should at least lend an ear to listen.

If we can understand the reason why our children behave in certain ways, then we can respond in ways that are more compassionate. We may not always have a solution for their hurts and frustrations. But, we can always lend an ear and listen. When children feel heard and when they feel that their emotions are validated, then they start cooperating more, they start acting more polite, they start being more helpful. There are other things we can do to help our kids be pleasant little people to be around and that is through giving choices and through playfulness AND through providing a loving environment.

So, yes, we absolutely should model appropriate behaviour in front of our children, but it’s not true that children do as they see, because adults usually don’t go around biting, yelling hitting, throwing toys, etc. Also, I’ve seen very polite, quiet children, and then you meet their parents, who are loud, swear a lot and talk over everyone! See, it doesn’t always match up…

If a child is swears, demands, yells, is aggressive or does other obnoxious things, parents, don’t feel like it’s you that’s modelled the wrong thing! There are more things going on than the ‘experts’ talk about and understanding the root cause of a child’s behaviour is the very first step.

To better understand behaviour and emotions, I highly recommend reading two books ‘Tears and Tantrums’ and ‘Attachment Play’ both by Aletha Solter.


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  1. Pingback: No, Children Don’t Always Model Their Parent’s Behaviours. – Parents Article – Parents Blog

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