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"LITTLE EYES ARE WATCHING: What do they see?"

Bringing awareness into your parenting lifestyle

D​id you ever find yourself doing one thing and then saying another? For instance, smoking a cigarette and then telling a child, "Don't smoke, it's bad for your health." This is double standard let alone a contradiction. This can be confusing to a child. If you are a parent or even if you've ever interacted with a child, you have probably found yourself in this predicament without even paying attention to the hypocrisy of it all.

I would like to bring awareness to the fact that while little ears may not always listen to you, they hear you and little eyes are watching you. According to Michigan State University, toddlers as young as 14 months, with as little as 20 seconds of observation of a video, can repeat the actions performed by the people in the video. (Shrier, 2014). Imagine what they take in to their brains throughout a day of observing you!

M​SU also performed a study wherein toddlers watched a video of a stranger playing with a toy. One group observed the stranger pulling apart a toy using the same actions each time. One group watched a video of the stranger ONLY playing with the toy. The study found that of the children who observed the toy being pulled apart, 90 percent of the two-year-old children took the toy apart like the person did in the video. Compared to 20 % of the children who saw the stranger playing with the toy took the toy apart on their own. (Shrier, 2014).


Since it's clear that children love to be copy cats, here are some steps you can take to offer behaviors worth copying. We know that the most critical stages of development occur between the ages of one and five years old. Social influence is at its greatest between the ages of eight and ten. Keeping this in mind, the following tips apply to children of all ages:

  1. Try to be aware of your actions and your words. Don't be a "Do as I say, not as I do" parent.

  2. Limit what they watch on television or on the internet. They are taking in everything they see. Do as much of these activities together so you can discuss what your child observed. Use this time to teach conversational skills, communication skills, and build a better relationship with your child.

  3. B​e aware of the relationships your children may be building; what friends are they hanging around?" People tend to "become" the people they are around the most.

  4. Every interaction with your child is an opportunity to teach them. Take some time to yourself to think about how you would like your child to view the world. What kind of behaviors and characteristic traits would you like your child to develop? Once you know this, keep it in the front of your mind at all times. If you don't already have these behaviors and traits, start now.

I tell you from my own experience that telling a child to not do the behavior they observed a parent doing doesn't work. Let's take for example, if a parent calls the other parent a name. This cannot be corrected by telling the child don’t do that. In that scenario if you say, "That isn't the way we should speak to other people." By then it's too late. Especially if they continue to see the same pattern of behavior from the parent.

Remember, if little ones are in the area they may look like they're not paying attention, but they totally and completely are paying attention to your words and actions. They love you so much that they want to be like you. Sometimes even modeling your behavior to a T.

What are your children going to model?


S​hrier, Carrie (2014) "Young Children Learn By Copying You!" Michigan State University Extension. Available at

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