In early childhood home visiting we believe in the power of modeling good behaviors. We model healthy habits, choices, and language for the parents and model good manners and behaviors for the young children. Our home visiting program follows what is called the “platinum rule” (Jaree Pawl in Parlakian, 2001). The way I treat the home visitors mirrors how the home visitors should treat the parents, which mirrors how the parents should treat their children. This trickle down effect can be an awesome responsibility and is one I take seriously. When I go out, I try to act like one of my students or colleagues could be watching me.
It is amazing how quickly children mimic the behaviors of those they watch. My husband and I went out to eat today and a young family sat in the booth ahead of us. They had a child approximately 2 years old and a child approximately 1 month old. The baby was happily nursing (kudos to the mom!) and the young dad talked to both the mom and the toddler. The toddler was very well behaved…until he watched my husband! My husband loves children and was waving to the child and making faces at him to get him to laugh. The toddler kept point up, so of course we looked up, too. We could not figure out what he was pointing to, so my husband pointed to the light suspended above the table and gently pushed it. At that point, their food came and the toddler turned around. My husband was just saying that he shouldn’t have pushed the light, when we saw the toddler copy him and try to push their light – it was only a matter of a couple of minutes! I give a lot of credit to the young dad for not fussing at the toddler, but instead redirected him to his food. My husband felt bad and afterward just waved to the toddler.
This shows how important it is to model good behaviors and manners when around young children. This is our chance to help shape the future.
Parlakian, R. (2001). Look, listen, and learn: Reflective supervision and relationship-based work. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.