cartoon of teacher standing in front of chalkboard
teachers model behavior


One teaching strategy that an effective teacher uses in a classroom with very young children is “modeling behavior”.  This means that students see the teacher performing the desired task while talking it through, often using exaggerated movements. The teacher will usually repeat the task many times to reinforce learning. For example, when the lesson is about how to get organized at the end of the day, Teacher might say, “I am going to get ready to leave now….hmm… let me check whether I have all the books I will be using tonight.  Here is the book I will read so I’ll put that into my bag and here is the paper for my parents – I’ll put that into my bag too.  O.K.  I have everything I need.”  Teachers do this because they know that children will follow the example they have been shown. The same technique will work  for you also. 

Your child will imitate you, his/her first role model. If you want your child to pick up good habits, you must model the behavior you wish to teach. I like to call it  THE ‘DO AS I DO, NOT DO AS I SAY’ METHOD  which, in my opinion, gets the message across more effectively.

Do you say please and thank you? Do you exhibit good manners at mealtime? Do you share? Do you hang your coat in the closet when you come home? Your child may learn these things just by watching you, but it is far more effective if you talk your actions through.  For example,

“I notice you only have two blocks left to play with, so I’ll share mine with you.”

“I am putting the blocks away because I am finished playing with them and I want to leaveyellow, blue, red and clear lego blocks the play area tidy.”

water running from faucet and sudsy hands“I have to wash my hands with soap and water before eating dinner.”

“I really don’t feel like getting ready for bed now but I will because soon it will be bedtime.”

You will notice that your child  will sometimes copy not only your actions but repeat your words as well sometimes even using the same tone of voice and expression as you do.

The general rule to follow is to teach one thing at a time, not manners about sharing, mealtime, respect, etc. all in the same week or day.  You do not have to suddenly become ‘model’ parents overnight.  Choose one behavior and work on that. Your child may not immediately exhibit the desired behavior and you may wonder whether your attempts are futile but you will see the results eventually if the child has heard it, seen it and experienced it often.

Whether or not you intend to model a specific behavior, your child learns by watching you.  He will pick up lessons on how to handle frustration, disappointments, and problems.

  • If you show respect for others, so will your child.
  • If, when playing a game, you lose graciously, so will your child
  • If you handle frustrations calmly, so will your child
  • If you exhibit bullying behavior, so will your child
  • If you sit in front of the TV all evening, so will your child
  • If you take exercise seriously, so will your child
  • The way you relate to others teaches your child how to relate to others

This list can go on indefinitely. We all attempt to do our best but sometimes we are tired, rushed, impatient, preoccupied or busy with other things going on in our lives. We should remember that our goal is to teach our young ones by example.

You are your child’s first and most important role model, so your own behavior is very influential!

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