Children’s learning begins with observation. Children see what their parents do, behave, and learn those same behaviours; they acquire them in their repertoire, and they will repeat them in the future. Parents are the role model your child fixes on and by which he can develop healthy habits and behaviours.
Children learn what they see in their parents.
Learning is something we do since we are born. The first years of life are essential in forming new behaviours, and the first technique to learn is to observe.
Children, especially the youngest ones, are constantly observing their surroundings and learning from them.
It is logical; it is their frame of reference, the first thing they know and, therefore, what they consider unique and authentic, without questioning anything else.
As parents, you are a fundamental part of this framework, as we saw in “Such a stick, such a chip: parents as a model.”
You are the people your child sees the longest, and therefore the ones he learns the most from.
Learned behaviours for the future
The style of behaviour and the pattern of behaviours that this child will follow in his next year’s largely depend on this stage. And this works for both positive and negative behaviours.
If you see that your parents criticize anyone for some defect, you will learn that the right thing to do is to blame others; If you notice that your parents help the neighbour to carry the groceries, you will know that the right thing to do is to help those in need; If you see your parents yelling and calling each other names, you will learn that this style of communication is the right thing to do. If you see that your parents accept criticism and are tolerant, you will know that the right thing to do is that way.
All that you have learned will be what you do when you grow up. It is proven every day in clinical practice: most people behave according to what they learned as children.
People who suffer from an episode of depression, on many occasions, have had a father or mother with a depressive personality style; abusers have usually been attacked or mistreated when they were children or one of their parents was violent towards the other; People who are insecure or afraid of something terrible happening have had, many times, parents who have protected them from absolutely everything (as we saw in “Overprotective parents, children with fear”).
And like these, we owe many other behaviours to our parents.
Parents can teach healthy habits.
Beyond these specific behaviours, parents are also vital in learning healthy lifestyles for their children.
For example, adolescents with smoking parents are three times more likely to acquire this habit than those who do not smoke.
The learning observing remains crucial in other vital behaviours such as sleep patterns.
If you stay up late or go to bed with the television on, it is more than likely that your child will also do it and get used to it and may have sleep problems in the future.
In the same way, food and exercise are two essential aspects whose importance we learn from a very young age.
Our parents teach us how to eat, and the food they give us (and, above all, the food they don’t give us) will influence our health and our tastes and the value we provide to food.
Childhood obesity is a current problem that can be avoided if we teach children to eat correctly, with parents being the first to do so.
And just as important are exercise and physical activity. If you don’t take the time to do some sport or physical exercise, why should your children do it?
You must constantly be on the move moving; if you give in to a sedentary lifestyle, your energy and vitality will gradually disappear, and your children will not have a transparent model of how important exercise is for health.
Be clear about this: your child will learn more from what he sees you do than what you tell him to do. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, the meaning is the same.
Adopt positive behaviours and appropriate behaviour patterns when you are with your child because he will watch you and learn.
And take the opportunity to carry out healthy habits with him, such as riding a bike or learning to cook something healthy, and thus you will also share extraordinary memories.