TW Viewpoint | Who Do You Imitate?

March 26, 2022 | Javid Khan

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One way we learn is by imitating someone. Children, especially, are imitators. But adults also learn by imitating others, particularly those they admire. Who do you imitate?

I once watched with delight and amusement as my then-two-and-a-half-year -old grandson traipsed up and down and back and forth across the lawn with his toy lawnmower. Every few minutes he would stop and watch his father, who was mowing the grass thirty feet away. As my son moved the mower back and forth in some tight corners, my grandson would imitate his movements. One movement that was particularly funny was my grandson pretending to start his lawnmower. He made a quick, jerking motion as if pulling a pull start (also called manual or zip start) like his father's mower has.

Social scientists, psychologists, and other scientists have studied the role of imitation in both humans and animals. Young children observe and imitate as a very important part of their development. Developmental psychologists describe this as forming mental representations of behavior as the child learns to associate behavior and actions.

Children learn to push buttons and turn knobs and scold the dog just like their parents. One of the first complete sentences my grandson said was, "Bad dog!" He also learned that the remote control turned the television on, and became quite frightened to learn that pushing the wrong button made the television screen go blank and hiss at him.

Long before they are capable of speaking their first word, children are learning to talk. They hear the various sounds of language, as well as its "lilt," from their parents and others. They begin babbling to imitate.

From the beginning, children learn and imitate both the positive and the negative. Funny stories (or maybe not so funny) are sometimes told about children who repeat a vulgar or impolite word they have innocently heard someone say! Because they learn by imitation, children may learn to be respectful, caring, and honest—but they may also learn to be disrespectful, uncaring, and dishonest. Many other good and bad traits may be imitated.

Children can imitate, in a simple physical manner, the spiritual virtues known as "the fruits of the spirit"—such as love, patience, gentleness, and faith. Of course, they can also imitate works of the flesh such as hatred, wrath, strife, and envy.

Adults, whether parents, grandparents, or simply friends and neighbors of young children, need to consider their example. Imitation is good, but we must be careful to imitate only what is good. Children will naturally learn to imitate their parents, the greatest influences in their young lives. However, children are not the only imitators. As adults, we should also take the time to consider who we imitate. This could be a conscious effort to build our character based on someone we admire, or it could be subconscious in nature. Which ever the case may be, we all need to imitate someone with perfect character, so we in turn can aim for perfection. Please watch our Viewpoint "Does your child have good character?" to see the importance of imitating the right way.

Adapted from "Who Do You Imitate?" by Roger Meyer

Watch Who Do You Imitate? on YouTube at Tomorrow's World Viewpoint