Does your child imitate your behaviors? Do they repeat your words or phrases? They may dress up like you, pretend to talk on the phone, or mimic the tasks at your job. Or, you may find them cracking their knuckles just like you, leaving their trash in the car, or repeating an inappropriate word you've used when angry. Children begin imitating the people in their environment when they are about 8 months old. But what purpose does this interesting behavior serve?
Some children imitate more than others, for various reasons, and not always knowingly or for attention. And they do not always imitate only desired behaviors or behaviors they admire, they imitate any behavior that they can learn from.
Imitating can serve to explore identity, as if to ask "how do I feel when I act like this person?" Imitating can help in finding independence, as if to feel like "I can do this all on my own." Imitating can bring comfort to kids by acting as someone they admire, and feeling what it feels like to be a certain way. It is great for developing language and social skills, and is a wonderful outlet for expression. Imitating is also a subconscious method of bonding, beginning within the first year of life and continuing throughout adulthood. Without a doubt, imitation is a great teacher.
It is not easy to predict what specific behaviors kids will choose to imitate, but it is certain that kids are like sponges, soaking in everything we say and do. So, be the person you want your child to grow to be, and model the behavior you want to see from your kids. You, and your kids, will be happy you did. :)