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From the moment they are born, babies and children learn by imitating.

From the moment they are born, children listen to what you say and watch what you do. Babies and children learn by imitating. By watching how you behave, your child will learn about how to react in similar situations.

You are your child’s role model. Your child will repeat what they’ve heard you say and they’ll imitate what they’ve seen you do.


  • Show appreciation, love and encouragement through words and affection. Your child will learn to talk and act based on how you talk to them and how you treat them. 

  • Be polite and respectful when you talk to your child. This will help show your child how to use good manners. For example, when you ask your child to do something you can say "please." When your child does something you like say “thank you”. If you don’t want your child to shout, try to speak quietly and gently yourself. A child won’t understand that hitting or shouting is not allowed if that is what they see you do.

  • Set a good example with your interactions with other people as your child is likely to copy your style of talking to others and how you treat them. 

  • Create family rules that apply to everyone. If you have a rule or no swearing or no shouting try to encourage everyone in the family to follow it too.

  • Try to eat meals together, at the table. Eating with your child will encourage them to enjoy food, try new foods, and learn good eating habits.  It is also a great opportunity to chat, and spend time together as a family. Eating together, especially around a table, can also give your child feelings of closeness and comfort. Change 4 Life (External link) has lots of recipes you could try. 

  • Role model an enjoyment of reading whether it’s a newspaper, magazine or a book. Try to share a book, song or game with your child. Your child will love this special time with you and it will help their development. There are ideas for songs, books and play activities on Words for Life (External link) and Read on. Get on (External link) and Education Begins at Home Facebook page (External link).

  • Show a good example by keeping calm when things get stressful. This will encourage your child to do the same.

  • Let your child see you express and deal with difficult emotions. “I’m feeling cross. I’m going to take the time to calm down by counting to 10.” When you express your anger without yelling, calling names, or hitting, you will teach your child how to deal with angry feelings without hurting others.

  • Nobody is perfect. Everyone loses their cool occasionally and says things they are sorry for. It’s okay to say sorry to your child if you’ve got cross. You are showing your child what to do and it will make them feel valued.

Researchers have found that parents who smile at their babies more, who are warm and pay lots of attention, have children who show more of those kinds of behaviours themselves.