Children need role models to show them how to behave in specific situations. They also absorb the behavior they see from others in every day life or in videos.
Very young children need direct guidance to know how to behave in specific situations.
One guidance method is modeling. If a child is banging his child size grocery cart into people at the store, the parent can model how to use her own cart. The mother might have to explicitly point out what she is doing while pushing the cart. For example, she might tell the child that she looks around the corner first before turning her cart. In another example, if child A is grabbing blocks from child B, the parent can model how to play in a prosocial manner with child B. While the grabbing child A watches, the father sits down and asks child B, “May I have a block, too?” Or “Can I build a garage next to the house you have built”? Or “When you are done, can I play with the blocks?”
Sometimes children learn behavior not from intentional direct guidance but from just noticing what we do. Examples of what your child may do if they see you doing it.
1) Emotionally dump on others. “Once again, you messed up.” “How many times do I have to tell you?”
2) Find positive ways of reducing stress like reading the Bible, journaling, taking a hot bath, going for a walk.
Children also take note of the behavior of others in videos, TV shows, etc. Since children are inundated with violent media and marketing, this is a problem.
Based on his extensive research since the 1960’s, Albert Bandura formulated a theory on observational learning called the Social Cognitive Theory. The following link represents one of his most famous studies. This clip shows how children often model their behavior based on their observations of an adult’s behavior. In this study, the children watched an adult repeatedly hit and say negative things to a life size doll. Compared to a control group, the children who watched an adult hit and verbally abuse the doll were much more likely to repeat the behavior.
Children need direct guidance/role modeling on how to behave and they absorb the behavior of others by simply watching them. If you don’t want them to do something, be sure you aren’t doing it yourself.