Why does my child imitate the great?
Imitating those around her is one of the favorite activities of the toddler, from birth. It is through this mimicry that he learns and grows. This imitation is essential to the development of the child. Explanations of Catherine Jousselme, a child psychiatrist.
Baby imitates to communicate
Pull out the tongue to a newborn, and it will make you feel right! This tendency to imitate the expressions and manifestations of those who look after him is innate: he owes it to certain neurons present in his brain, called “mirror neurons.”
However, very soon, this imitation which, in the beginning, was only a reflex, becomes more subtle and takes on meaning. So, he realizes that by imitating your smile, it triggers at home joy, kisses, and cuddles in return. He notes the same enthusiasm when he emits vocalizations to try to reproduce the melody of your sentences.
The very positive reactions of adults encourage him to reinforce his behavior of imitation and thus to interact, to communicate more and more with them. Thus, over the months, he learns how to decode the emotions expressed on faces and especially to speak.
The little child imitates to bear the frustrations
Here he is, who scolds his blanket severely. However, what happens to him? Probably he replays a scene where he was scolded by you. So even if he does not yet speak very well, he has at heart to imitate your severe intonations as closely as possible. He is thoroughly in his role, and his poor blanket has only to stand well!
His imitation then takes on another dimension and draws him into the register of identification: he does not merely act as his parents, for a moment, he “is” his parents.
To put yourself in your place helps him to appropriate your demands on him and the limits you want to impose on him. Moreover, then, disguising himself on his blanket, he evacuates some of the annoyance felt when he was scolded. Of what to repair (integrate the shock of the reproaches of his parents), and better to bear the next frustrations.
The little child imitates to grow
Around 18 months-2 years, a small child likes to imitate the gestures of everyday life. He pretends to wash his teddy bear, to feed his doll, to dress and undress his blanket. This is the great era of symbolic games.
No need for a real bath to give the bath or a real puree to feed her doll! He is now far from the reflex imitation of beginnings and now devotes himself to abstract reproduction. It is a sign that the child has made a giant leap in its development.
Another benefit: by imitating the gestures you still perform for him, he repeats blankly and learns little by little to do them for his account. In the difficult conquest of autonomy, imitation gives it a decisive help.
The young child imitates to understand the world
At about three years old, he began to play the merchant, the doctor, the father or the mother. In doing so, he no longer plays intimate scenes, does not reproduce everyday gestures but imitates characters crossed elsewhere than at home (including the father and the mum who can be those of boyfriends).
As the social world opens up to him, he tries to see more clearly, to understand how all these adults behave: the relationships they have with each other, the emotions they feel, the feelings they experience if he were in their place, how he would act if he were a doctor who looked after the others or a mistress who looked after the children, and so on. This time, he engages in a very creative and imaginative imitation that accompanies him in his discovery of society.
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