Young Parents Team
The typical toddler is good at making her parents conscious of their own behaviour – because she spends so much time copying them.
Whether it’s copying your actions during your cleaning routine or your hand movements when you are angry, your toddler likes to imitate you.
However, she is not doing this in order to annoy or antagonise you. Copycat behaviour at this age happens because:
1. Your young child loves you, admires you, and wants to be like you.
Part of the bonding process involves her taking on some of your characteristics and actions – she instinctively tries to behave like you due to her desire to strengthen her emotional connection with you.
2. She likes to explore what it is like to be someone else.
Just like role play or pretend play, imitation gives her an opportunity to test out what it is like being you.
Copying your behaviour gives her a feel of the world from your perspective. In this sense, copycat behaviour satisfies her curiosity.
3. She learns through imitation.
By observing you, her siblings or anyone else, your child increases her knowledge of problem-solving skills. For instance, she uses what she learns from seeing you open a box of biscuits to open her box of toys.
For all these reasons, copycat behaviour enhances her development. It seems to be an instinctive technique that your two-year-old uses without thinking, and carries both emotional and learning benefits.
SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE
The fact that copycat behaviour is so dominant during this stage of your child’s life means you need to take great care to set a good example – she is just as capable of replicating your bad habits as your good habits.
So, don’t be surprised to hear her parrot your angry words when she listens to you reprimand her older sister, or see her banging plates on the table after you do exactly that in temper.
For her, all of your behaviour – positive or negative – is fascinating, and she wants to copy as much as she can. The same should apply to her older siblings who may enjoy using their younger sister’s copycat behaviour for their own amusement.
That’s why, for instance, you may find them deliberately using bad language in front of her – they burst out laughing when they hear her use these same words, even though she obviously doesn’t understand their meaning.
Explain to your older kids that your toddler looks up to them, and urge them to set a good standard of behaviour for her to copy.
USING COPYCAT BEHAVIOUR POSITIVELY
Use the fact that she loves imitating you to your advantage. For instance, she finds it easier to learn songs and rhymes by copying you than from any other source; and she is so keen to be like you that she’ll try harder to learn something new when you demonstrate it for her.
Teaching new skills to your toddler by demonstrating them to her is a very effective technique at this age.
In addition, encourage her caring behaviour, sensitiveness and pro-social actions towards others by behaving that way yourself in front of her.
Behave in front of your child in ways that you want her to copy – there is no guarantee she’ll copy everything you do, but it’s better than leaving things to chance.
Related: How to handle a copycat kid