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Does Modeling Affect a Child's Behavior?

by Lee Grayson, studioD

Children develop character, values and morals by respecting authority, learning appropriate behavior and following the rules, according to David Popenoe, professor of sociology at Rutgers University. Emotional attachments with family and peers also shape the way your child behaves. Popenoe says the key to raising children with behavior matching your values and standards rests in spending time with your child and modeling the desired behaviors.

Adult Modeling

Children watch adults to learn behavior, such as saying "please" and "thank you" in conversation. Hearing children use parents' favorite curse words reminds adults of the importance of modeling appropriate behavior when children are present. The negative side of children modeling adult behavior includes the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs -- both legal and illegal. Many parents model behavior unconsciously when unaware that young eyes observe their actions. Adults, however, have the ability to change behavior by reteaching or modeling different behavior, according to the Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers and the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure influences behavior, and the more time children spend with peers, the more influential friends become. Behavioral scientists studying youth behavior note links between peer pressure and violence, substance use and abuse and criminal activity. Nancy Gonzales, psychology professor at Arizona State University, and Kenneth A. Dodge, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, link peer modeling with high-risk behavior during the teen years, including antisocial activities, reckless driving and risky sexual behavior.

Age-Appropriate Modeling

Age-appropriate modeling offers successful lessons for your child to learn acceptable behavior. Expecting a toddler to behave the same way as an adult during a three-hour opera performance, for example, places unrealistic expectations on the young child. Talking to your children about taking charge of personal actions and modeling appropriate behavior helps them develop skills needed throughout life, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. The association recommends talking with children so they understand how to resist bad behavior, encouraging children to practice self-regulation, and modeling appropriate behavior through actions and role playing.

Negative Influences

Bad behavior models unacceptable actions. Using poor behavior to demonstrate how society views these actions helps your child understand how the behavior reflects poorly on the child and your family. Talking to your child about his feelings as he views another child throwing a tantrum offers practical lessons and real-world examples for discussions. Children also learn violent and abusive behaviors from adults, according to the Department of Child Development and Family Studies at the Purdue University Extension Service. Psychologist Nancy Eisenberg says children are more influenced by the behavior being modeled by adults than by what adults say about appropriate behavior.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

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