Toddler Development: Learning Through Example

I’ve always made it clear that I am anti-corporal punishment.  If you read my post on the topic, you will understand the reasons why I am against it.  Lately, I have discovered one more reason to avoid using physical punishment for my children.

Monkey See Monkey Do

Well, in this case, it was more like “monkey hear, monkey say”…

Whenever I reprimand Gavin or talk to him about disciplinary measures, I always try to explain why I get upset with him or why I revoke his privileges.  I want him to connect his actions with my reactions so that he can learn the lesson in future.

I also try to pre-empt tantrums and head them off by giving Gavin advanced warnings.  For instance, I might tell him, “When we get home, we’re going to have a bath, hop into bed, read one story and go to sleep.  Okay?  I don’t want to hear any fussing about lights out.”

Once I have his agreement or promise that this is exactly the chain of events that will take place, he is generally more willing to follow through with the plan.  Even if he doesn’t, he will understand why he gets punished for breaking the rules.  If he fusses or throws a tantrum to get that second story, I can remind him what we agreed on in the car and usually it is enough to get the message home.  I generally find that the times when he is least cooperative are the times when he’s already over tired and should have gone to bed earlier.

I digressing…  Lately, I’ve been hearing Gavin repeating back to me the things we say to him.  It might be something I’ve repeated to him time and again, or it might be something that Ah Mah, or one of the other members of the family remark off hand.  For instance, last night, he told me in the car, “When we get home, we’re going to read one story.  Then I’m going to turn the light off.  Mummy, if you fuss, I’ll get cross! Okay?”

Another one he’s been repeating back to me is the one about using the toilet.  One afternoon, I had to use the bathroom.  Gavin came up to me and said, “Mummy, you have to tell me when you need to go to the bathroom.  If you wee on the floor then you’ll make a mess and kakak will have to clean it up!”

Recently, I was in the car with my MIL, FIL and Gavin.  Another car drove by us rather recklessly and my MIL uttered out loud something to the effect of: “Stupid motorcycle!”  It was just one of those instinctive things that we sometimes exclaim unconsciously when we are taken by surprise.  Seconds later, there was an echo in the car.  Gavin repeated, “Stupid motorcycle!”

Gavin is now starting to be such a mimic that I’ve realised that it isn’t just what we say that we have to be careful about.  He could easily start copying our actions as well.  If I had been in the habit of smacking him for misbehaving, I’m sure he would have picked up that habit, too.  The last thing I want him to do is start hitting other people because he thinks it is “okay”.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Toddler Development: Learning Through Example

  1. Nice post with have a great article on this post.some kids just aren’t chatty. He understands what you’re saying. Keep reading to him and ask him questions about what he sees when you go on outings


  2. Thanks Rose. Oh no, I think you’re mistaken. Gavin is extremely chatty, I’m afraid. He loves to tell stories about trains and once he’s warmed up, he can’t stop!


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