DAA Daily

Why do you behave the same way as your parents?

Sabina Saktaganova Staff Reporter, The Pawprint

There are multiple learning types, such as classical conditioning and operant conditioning, that reinforce the idea of how direct experience, reinforcement or punishment, lead to learning. Nevertheless, a lot of learning happens indirectly, through the process of watching others.

Observational learning is the process of learning through observing others, and then copying the behaviors that were seen. 

For example, the famous Bobo doll experiment illustrated how kids copy adult behavior. Researchers noticed that children treated the doll the same way the adults did. Children who observed an adult showing violent behavior with the doll became aggressive in their interactions too. While children who watched adults being kind with the doll showed kindness as well.

  • So is there actually a relationship between the way a child’s parents behave and his own behavior?

Turns out the famous phrase: “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not work on children. Children learn through observational learning. They learn and imitate behaviours by observing others, especially people they spend the most time with or look up to, their parents.

For example, a child watching his parents wave at people will make him imitate the action himself. It also plays a vital role in the process of socialization. Children learn how to behave and respond to others by watching their parents interact with people.

However, watching a behaviour does not mean that a child will immediately perform the behavior themselves. For instance, if they see another child in the kindergarten destroying things, it does not mean that they will break toys too. Children are not just imitating anything other people are doing, they also learn about the consequences of those behaviors.

Children will imitate behaviors depending on what sort of reinforcement will the behavior receive. For example, if a child hears another child using “not-so-child-friendly” vocabulary, he might learn new words, but not actually use them.

If, however, a child receives any type of reward for swearing, then it is more likely that an observing child will copy the behavior. But who would give a reward to a swearing child? Well, don’t forget that laughter is also an unintended positive reinforcement. And if the child receives a negative reinforcement for his behavior, such as any type of punishment, an observing child will less likely copy the behavior.

But if they hear their parents swearing, then this whole concept with reinforcement won’t work. So if parents don’t want their child smoking, maybe they should quit smoking too. And if they want their child to be honest, then they need to be truthful too.

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