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Role modelling starts with parents

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Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
FROM an early age, children are very good at imitating or mimicking those who are closest to them, especially their parents.
This reminds me of how my daughter as a two-year-old would pick the handset and have imaginary conversations with her dad’s colleague.
My husband often spoke to a colleague and we were amazed when my daughter started mimicking her dad right down to facial expressions and gesturing.
In her fantasy world, my daughter would refer to the gentleman by name just like her dad did.
These make-believe conversations carried on until she was much older. We were always of the view that she was engrossed in her activities and was not aware of what was going on around her until she started acting out.
Although some children do not try to imitate their parents, they spend a considerable time observing and processing the information before they attempt to act out what they have been exposed to. It is through imitating or mimicking that children learn of skills that range from language, social skills and behaviour.
According to American paediatrician Howard Klein, mimicry begins at birth. Many newborns, for instance, copy facial movements such as sticking out their tongue. But it is the age of one year that marks the beginning of true imitation, or imitation with intent in a child, says Dr Klein.
As parents it is critical to always assess your conduct, especially when you are in front of your children. This is because when children are older, they are likely to behave in the same way they were socialised when they were growing up. This does not mean that children only mimic negative behaviour from their parents; they also imitate positive behaviours which help them to grow into responsible adults.
Parents should always ensure that they are consistent in all they say or do in the presence of their children, because failure to do so often leads to consequences. Children do not appreciate the teachings of their parents if deeds and words are not in sync. Children are very smart and they easily recognise inconsistencies, which can be quite upsetting for them. Sometimes they can wait until adolescence to throw back the inconsistencies at their parents. And parents may find it difficult to mete out discipline because their children have taken after their (parents’) character. For example, when parents are always fighting and shouting at each other, it will be difficult to train their children to behave in a civil manner towards others because of the rowdy and violent behaviour they are exposed to. It is this kind of inconsistency in behaviour by parents that tends to confuse children.
However, when parents are consistent, children pick up on this and often as adults they will not depart from what they were taught during childhood. Most adults can attest to this; there are numerous behaviours that people learn in childhood, whether good or bad, that they use to run their own homes.
That is why children are their parents’ best or worst ambassadors, depending on how they were brought up. It is imperative for parents to exercise consistency in their talk and behaviour for the benefit of their children.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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