Learning by Example
By Harry Petsanis and Donna McCance
Children look to us as the experts, the ones who know what is best for them. They look to us as models, believing that how we behave is how they should behave. We set the examples for learning.
Many times, children infer from our behaviors because they do not completely understand our words and our actions. And many times, their inferences are incorrect. Because they are not intellectually advanced enough to reason from the information they see and hear, they may deduce information incorrectly, and internalize the responses they get.
These incorrect inferences can have a devastating effect on their feelings of self-worth. And sometimes, they don’t need to infer to get a clear message from what the adult is showing them, which can have a detrimental effect as well.
Take anger for example. When you get angry at a child, or a child sees you get angry at someone else, they learn how to react with anger. If a child shows anger back, which is the behavior they learned from watching you, they then get punished for it. All that does is create more anger. Eventually, the anger turns into apathy because while you may condition a child not to show their emotions (unlike the way you do), they know they are helpless in defending themselves or showing how they feel, so they give up.
And while sometimes children don’t understand, they imprint on the adult’s behavior thinking they will get approval because they are acting the way the adult is acting, which they think is how they are supposed to be.
Children are innately curious and learning stems from that curiosity. As they age, they try to figure out what their place is in life. They do this by observing how people act and react toward them and others.
It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, you need to be aware that when you are in the presence of children, they are absorbing what you are doing and saying. You may think they are not paying attention, but they are.
Children learn emotional intelligence by watching how you manage your emotions. They learn empathy and compassion by watching you show empathy and compassion toward them and others. They learn from your example.
If you lose your cool and start yelling at a child or someone else, they will think that is how people are supposed to behave. However, if they see that you have a reason to get angry at something but show how you calm yourself down before you react, they will learn that as well.
No one is perfect. We are all born imperfect so that we can make choices and mistakes to learn how we can manage ourselves, our emotions, and our lives. Children feel emotions and see emotions in others. They begin to understand that everyone has them.
What is crucial for children to learn is how to manage their emotions. Their learning how not to manage their emotions from watching you not handle yours is not the way for them to learn. Do you assume children aren’t watching you? Do you assume they aren’t listening to you? Do you assume that how you speak and behave doesn’t affect their learning? If so, you have assumed incorrectly.
You can immediately become self-aware by immediately assessing your actions and think “Is my behavior something I want children to learn from? Do I want children to treat me the same way I am treating them? Do I want them to talk down to me the way I am talking down to them? Do I want them to be angry with me the way I am being angry with them?”
If you refuse to make the choice of learning how to manage and control your emotions, you are choosing to do a lifetime of damage to the life of other human beings because someone is always watching and learning from your behavior.
About the Authors
Harry Petsanis is a philosopher of human nature, mindset specialist, and lifelong fitness and wellness advisor. He is a writer and author, with three published books: “The Truth is A Lie,” “The Logical Path to Life,” and "Knowing Me from A to Z, A Child's Mindset," which he co-authored with Donna McCance, M.Ed.. Harry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He has an intense passion for psychology and the human condition.
Donna McCance, M.Ed. is a business administrator, writer, author, licensed teacher and principal/vice principal with over 20 years experience teaching in elementary education and educational leadership. She has a Masters in Education, Masters in Human Services Management, Bachelors in Business Administration and Associates in Business Administration.
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The Truth is A Lie" and "The Logical Path To Life"
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to order Harry Petsanis's and Donna McCance's newly published book
"Knowing Me From A to Z, A Child's Mindset"
To learn about Harry Petsanis, go to his website