Modelling Behaviour

Children copy what they experience – most especially what they see their adult primary carers doing. Patterns for behaviour, a sense of place in the world, ideas about self, family, community and life are absorbed unconsciously early on, and often taken in through that act of mimicry. However, there’s not an age at which this entirely goes away. We’re primates. Monkey see, monkey do.

Affirmation and a sense of belonging follows from doing the things we can see other people doing. It’s one of the reasons clothes fashions and counter culture clothing are so powerful – they identify us with our people. There’s no inherent reason why we see suits as smart and jeans as scruffy, that’s just a consensus to help us fit in with the company we’re keeping. If the convention was to wear jeans to the office and suits for lounging around in, we’d do it that way instead. Neither being that physically comfortable.

When people encounter expressions of anger, hatred, violence and prejudice, some will respond by wanting to repeat that behaviour. Obviously it has to tap into personal attitude, but the more visible it is, the more comfortable it feels to be part of it. When the majority are calm, pleasant, cooperative and friendly there’s real pressure on people who tend to hate to fit in with standard behaviour.

Many people aren’t comfortable with standing out from the crowd.

This is why, for those of us who can and will buck the trend, it’s important to keep modelling the kind of behaviour we want to see in the world. Be calm. Be reasonable. Avoid aggressive and abusive language. Avoid shouting back. Model something better. It has a real effect. On the other hand, if we’re lured into expressions of rage and violence, what we do is fuel the rage and violence that we were trying to oppose. There’s an allure in verbal and physical violence – it can make us feel powerful, it can allow us power over others, and if we feel self-righteous, knocking the ‘idiots’ down can feel exciting, and that’s a trap to avoid, because at that point, we’re just a bunch of people attacking each other and the values we thought we stood up for are likely lost in the mix.

Situations of self defence aside, the ‘fight’ here is first and foremost at a conceptual level, it’s about what kind of people we are and how we think people should be, and the best way to achieve this is to keep demonstrating it.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Modelling Behaviour

  • The Parent and Pupil Coach

    Hi Nimue, I enjoyed reading your article, you may like to research mirror neurons, the underlying neurology behind behaviour/modelling. The phrase, “Kids are like sponges” is so overused that we tend not to pay greater attention to what our children are ‘reading’ from us. And the scary news is that they are less reading our words, and far more modelling our behaviour, our actions – at a micro muscle level. I see it in my work and my own children.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for this! Any book recommendations on that score? I’ve peered at the biological side before and its a subject that fascinates me, but I’m certainly not up to date.

      • The Parent and Pupil Coach

        You’re welcome 🙂 I’d suggest having a good look on google and amazon as there’s a lot of discussion about its validity. I’ve not read more than the research online. And mirroring and matching is part of rapport building that is widely used in a variety of settings. I wrote about my personal experience in this article:

        Whilst the science argues it out, I think that we notice many occasions where we mirror/model/match behaviour that supports the ideas.

  • Tracy Kruse

    I think that the mirroring as behavior modeling is accurate. After all, it is “that in order to hate, one has to be carefully taught”. I don’t think a bully just emerges but has to have someone show them that behavior.

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