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How well do you know your child’s models? 21 questions to find out

As far back as I can remember, our son has wanted to be Harry Potter.

Over the years, words such as “Expecto Patronum”, “Expelliarmus” and “Avada Kedavra” have become part of his vocabulary and we have all learnt to humour his attempts at becoming invisible.

Children all have models, and these models influence their behaviour.

According to Albert Bandura’s social learning theory, a child’s model can explain much of his/her behaviour.

It was not until Bandura’s famous “Bobo-doll experiment” that the extent to which children are affected by the models around them was scientifically proven. The experiment showed that children exposed to aggressive behaviour are more likely to exhibit aggression than those who do not witness this behaviour. Bandura’s studies on social learning have also found that children are more likely to imitate those they perceive to be similar to themselves (boys are more likely to reproduce the behaviour they see in other boys).

Learning through observation. Everyone does it. Observation is a universal trait that is as old as humankind. We learn what works, what doesn’t, and what’s worth doing by observing how everyone around us behaves – family, friends, celebrities – and whether that behaviour meets approval or is frowned upon.

In other words, lessons observed are not always lesson learned: the reinforcement associated with specific behaviour can reinforce or suppress it. If bravado is met with praise, it is more likely to be repeated than if it meets with disapproval or punishment. If you praise your daughter for being kind to her younger brother, the kind act is more likely to be repeated.

By showing the extent to which models matter, Bandura’s experiment made a great contribution to understanding and controlling child behaviour. It showed that much of your child’s behaviour can be associated with his/her models.

Indeed, children observe different people – classmates, TV, friends, family members -, encode their behaviour, then imitate that behaviour.

So how well do you know your child’s models?

Here are 20 questions for an entertaining insight into what influences your child:

1. Name 2 of your child’s models
2. What does your child admire in these models?
3. Name 2 of your child’s favourite TV programs.
4. What are these programs about?
5. Can you name 2 characters in each of the programs?
6. Name your child’s 2 closest friends.
7. Why are they friends?
8. What are the 3 things your child admires in each of his/her friends?
9. Who’s the most amazing person your child knows?
10. Outside the family, who has had the greatest impact on your child?
11. If your child could have a Superpower, what would it be?
12. If your child’s could have 3 wishes, what would he/she wish for?
13. Who’s your child’s favourite singer?
14. What’s your child’s favourite possession?
15. Who’s the strongest (most intelligent) person your child knows?
16. What is your child’s favourite toy among his/her toys?
17. What would your child like to do when he/she grows up?
18. If you child could be anybody he/she wanted to be, who would he/she be?
19. What’s your child’s favourite book?
20. Who’s your child’s least favourite person? Why?
21. If your child could hang out with anyone for the entire day, who would it be?

Ask your child the same questions and compare answers. Should be fun!

Parent, Educational Researcher, Writer

Sanya Pelini holds a Ph.D. in educational research from Université Paris-Est Créteil in France. She transforms educational research into practical tools and resources for parents on her blog Raising-independent-kids. She is the author of the Ebook Fifteen Days to Independent Kids.