What does it mean? Modeling.

What you need to know:

  • Modeling is the thing that adults do that kids imitate

  • It’s one of the main ways we learn

  • Kids model what we DO more than what we SAY


One of the main ways that children learn is by imitating the adults around them. Most of the time, often without knowing it, we adults are doing things that our kids will sometimes imitate. This is modeling! Modeling is the thing that adults do that kids imitate. We can model speech sounds, grammar, vocabulary, behavior (walking slowly in the parking lot, using our own ‘inside voice’ at the library), and we can model skills (doing a puzzle, making a tower). 

Virtually all children pick up on at least some of our models, which means we have to be careful. Because as parents, we model both good and….not so good language; good and ...not so good behaviors; good and… not so good skills. So, if you hear your three year old say, “what the hell is your problem?!” to her baby sister, chances are she heard that from a trusted adult (and not the dude on the street, though you might be tempted to blame him). If you see your two year old tell her baby doll, “just a minute, I’m on the phone”, well…. And, if your 4 year old engages in “back talk” when you ask them to clear the table, take a minute to ask yourself where they learned to use that tone of voice.

Modeling is powerful because it goes way beyond what you say: it encompasses everything you DO also. If you say “nice words”, but your body language and tone of voice doesn’t match, then you are modeling something completely different than if your tone of voice and your words match. This is why sarcasm and little kids don’t mix: they can’t figure out the mismatch between text and subtext. It’s super confusing to them.

Have you noticed that your child imitates you? Or another adult in their life? Pay attention to how your child imitates the things you model this week. It can be a little bit like looking in the mirror! (And not always in a good way.) 

I’d love to hear about what you notice. Will you hit “reply” and let me know?

All my best - Gabriele