Kids Learn By Example

There will be lots to come on the topic of teaching language to our children (ie: multiple languages, how to learn colors etc.) but here’s a quick one today to remind us all that our kids learn by example.

We were at Church the other day when I had a huge coughing spat. At the end of it I flippantly said “oh goodness!”…. and heard it repeated for the rest of the hour courtesy of my little parrot. I had said it with a smile on my face (of relief, because the coughing was done) – so said little bird thought it was funny, and exclaimed it more and more urgently until we walked out the door.

Whenever he wants to do something like color… laundry…swim…or lick my toes… he’ll say to me “may I have swimming please mommy” and then cheekily add “maybe later” (my frequent response)…. Or when he runs to the front door, he mockingly says “don’t open the door” with my exact voice inflections!   Infuriatingly cute.

He’s picking up crazy amounts of Hindi from our Indian nanny now too. What the what?!

Kids Learn by Example

I remember when my little niece was just a tiny little tingu and barely talking yet, her dad would say things like “honey your behavior just now was highly inappropriate” and we would kind of giggle about how crazy those words must have sounded to an infant… but you should hear the girl now. She’s barely three and has a better vocabulary than some adults I know.

Studies have shown time and time again that talking to our kids (reading and singing count too) – but just using language around them is how they learn and assimilate their mother tongue. I was talking to a friend who works in a daycare the other day who told me that she can tell how parents talk at home based on the things their children say. Anyone else blushing?

Kids learn by example, so watch what you say. Watch how you say it. But keep saying good things!

Kids Learn By Example

37 thoughts on “Kids Learn By Example”

  1. So true! I accidentally said “oh shoot” today and the 3 year old quickly repeated after me. I wasn’t sure how to make the child “unlearn” what I had just said. Any tips on how to go about this (especially if you’ve said a word you want to avoid them learning now)?
    On the bright side, when we saw one of the kid’s parents walking over to our house, we said “Your parents are here!”. The little 2 year old exclaimed so cutely, “parents!”. It was such a funny moment. 🙂

    1. Hi Rachana! That’s so funny 🙂 What has worked for us so far has been to just stop reacting when he says whatever word we want to eliminate from his vocabulary. Usually when he says things he’s not supposed to he quickly scans the room for uproarious laughter (which happens) and then (because he knows what he is not supposed to say) follows it up with a shaking finger and “don’t say that!” It’s really hard to keep a straight face through both of those occurrences… but when we do, he moves on quickly. If it’s a word that he’s only copied once or twice right after you said it, I reckon it’ll be fairly easy… if it’s well engrained then it might take some time to banish… and might require time outs for saying it if it’s serious. Hope that helps 🙂

  2. I had my au pair time with 3-year-old and I was amazed by how selective he was picking things to ‘parrot’: a back-pain gait from his grandpa (because grandpa was the man), martial arts moves from his brother, or opinions from his mum. It was hilarious, but also a bit scary how much attention a mother need to pay to the company of the little ones!

    1. hahaha exactly- you’re so right! we need to watch the company they keep as much as what we say…. i’ve definitely noticed some things we don’t say creep into his vocab…

    1. Yup – I hope so too! at least we can be intentional about it! But everything is a learning opportunity I guess 🙂

  3. Great post here, reminds me of my neighbors child while growing up, he picked all the cutest words spoken around him.. thanks for this.

    1. So fun! It’s kind of a cool “power” to be able to shape what comes out of another human beings mouth… haha!

  4. Children are like magnets for information, especially when they are very small. That’s the moment when you should start teaching them a different language, or play different games that develop their memory and teach then new things, like geography for example.

    1. So true Joanna! I actually have a post on that up already… I’m gearing up to start speaking french around the house as well now! Great ideas!

    1. YES. exactly. I have found that I need to be so cognizant of everything I say and do because he sees it all. We have a pretty serious responsibility as parents! Thanks for stopping by Varun 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Tania 🙂 That’s so sweet of you! Being a parent has definitely made me a more self-reflective, patient person… (lots of work to do still!)

    1. So true! hahah! i’m so glad I never picked up the habit of swearing… even name-calling… haha! it’s so funny to hear what he picks up.

    1. Thanks Saminu 🙂 They really do – it’s a fun lesson to learn as parents and use our influence for Good!

  5. Best message ever! It’s definitely important to make sure that you’re being careful with how you converse with each other when the kids are around especially when you’re planning to talk about something unpleasant. I hope a lot of parents read this so they can realize that.

    1. hahah thanks Elizabeth 🙂 I hope so too! What we say to kids and around them is so important to moderate.

  6. I don’t have kids but I totally can understand that it’s so difficult to control one’s vocabulary sometimes in front of kids because they grasp soon. One of my friends was talking on her mobile and said “shit” and her 2 years old girl learnt that word!

    1. Funny and so not funny at the same time! It’s a good exercise in self-control and emotional control!

  7. Yes kids are so influential it’s crazy. However this could be a good thing at times considering you are trying to teach them good. The bad part is that they are still that influential even on the first years of school and you never know what other kind of kids they meet there.

    1. Exactly…. Both negatives and positives… We’re just trying to fill him up with the good stuff! Thanks for stopping by Vlad!

  8. It’s really important for the parents to control the words that they say, but sometimes they lose the control and the kids especially the little kids pick the words quickly. I love the way you write.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Rose :). It’s quite amazing how quickly littles pick up everything… Especially the things they’re not supposed to!

  9. Kids learn by example and it`s so important that we inspire them: speaking and dancing with them, singing not just give them a tablet and let them figure themselves. Great post !!

    1. I love the way you said that Catalina :). Agreed! Not just our words, but actions are what they imitate!

  10. I really enjoyed reading this post. That’s for sharing. As a teacher I really agree. We’ve got friends that don’t realise that kids will pick up on absolutely anything and find it funny when a child swears, urgh.

    Ami xxx

    1. Oh interesting! You must see so much of that (good and bad) at school. I thought him saying “crap” was funny…. For 2 seconds.

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