This is part of the little series I’m doing, offering tiny mantras and quick thoughts on the nature of parenting. My hope is that these little perspective framers will be a boon for parents of all sorts, regardless of your particular philosophy or approach.
The theme for the moment in my parenting head is, “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” and like a song that gets stuck in there, the words have been bouncing around in my mind as I move through my day. In addition, as with any perspective we chose to carry, it has a/effected my point of view on everything that’s been happening, and everything I’ve been doing. But then, that’s the whole point of chosing a perspective, right?
The message of this little mantra is simple and profound. It refers not just to monkeys copying each other, but more precisely in this case, to the fundamental function of modeling and mimicry in child nurturing. Pretty much any involved parents in nature, from birds to tree toads to mammals of all sorts (including monkeys and humans), rely instinctually on this faculty of intuitive exchange. And it’s such a part of the relationship between parents and offspring, that we do it all the time without even thinking about it.
The point, however, in consciously considering it, is to use this natural function for the purposes of not only deepening the parent-child bond, but also to engender the relationship with a culture of familial education. The two purposes go hand in hand, and double back into each other in such ways that it becomes impossible to separate the two — and that is ideal. In order to teach our kids, and have them naturally follow our lead, we have to nurture that bond, and one way to nurture that bond early on is to play “Monkey See, Monkey Do” with them in as many ways as possible. Doing this intentionally from infancy, strengthens the bond that strengthens the model-mimic effect that strengthens the bond that strengthens the effect, and so on.
This natural mechanism/tendency for our little ones to copy what they experience us doing is responsible for so much of how we have developed as a species that you could think of it as the preeminent educational technique of all history. So feel free to capitalize on it — there isn’t a copy-right infringement or patent issue — it’s free domain for all. And the more you rely on it, the more potent it becomes.
I suggest making games out of it with infants. They do something, then you do it, and the opposite as well — much like the examples in the photos above. Continue playing with it through babyhood — getting them to do what you do — e.g. you make the sign for “food”, then they make it back, etc.. Then begin to rely on it more and more as a teaching tool.
Monkey See, Monkey Do — it’s good for you and your kids, too!
Be well, my fellow models. Get out there and get mimicked.