Shhh, You Are Being Observed!

by Sahadev Komaragiri

BabyPhoneHave you ever seen a three year old pretending to talk over a phone? I did. One of our family friend’s daughter, a 3 year old, was on phone pretending to talk to someone. She had her own kind of hands free. She managed to stick her phone between her shoulder and her tilted head. She pretended that her hands were not free and that she was cooking or doing something else. Occasionally she wiped her forehead with the back of her palm. She was regularly saying things like ‘yeah?’, ‘yes’, ‘really?’ and so on. What a sight it was!

Now, for a three year old this is a skill that cannot be taught. The child learnt it from her mom simply by observation. Don’t we all do that all the time? We act like someone we know and expect that we look as cool as they do. One person I know sported the unique hair style of Sunny Deol(movie star) for the longest time possible. He gave up this hair style very reluctantly once he joined a University. There they had some very strict norms about acceptable hair styles. When I am at my dining table, my left elbow rests on the table and the elbow to the palm length is nicely pointed to the ceiling! Little did I know that I was copying my dad until someone told me that my dad does exactly the same thing! We even have our verbal argumentative skills and writing styles that imitate someone or a sum of some of the similar acts of people we know.

EatBrainAt times it appears to me that all our learning is simply a sum of all our observations! Most of the time we are observing others and can’t help notice that we are being observed too. In the process some kind of learning happens. This phenomenon called “observed learning” is here to stay with us. Unfortunately we do not pay much attention to this aspect in our schools and our homes where kids spend a lot of time in learning simply by observing the adults they are with.

I was once in a science class where the teacher taught a concept with great ease and comfort. I thought it was a fantastic class. When the kids were leaving the class, I asked one of the boys how the class was and what he learnt in the  class. The boy, a seven year old, said, “Sir, today I learnt how to pick up a chalk piece without bending down”. That was not part of the lesson plan and I realized that the teacher at one point picked up a chalk piece from the floor with her toes without a need to bend down. I wonder what else are our kids learning from their teachers simply through observation!

When we are with kids we should be mindful that we are being observed. Now that you know this, do something wonderful, useful and valuable all the time especially when kids are around.

  • Appreciate good music and sing along if possible.EffWord
  • Go out on nature tours and learn to fall in love with it. It is the biggest healer of all the physical and psychological ailments of all times.
  • During conversations talk about the value systems of your parents and grandparents.(not to the kids directly).
  • Make it a habit to switch off lights and fans when you leave the room and always use the dustbin to dispose off trash.
  • Never say anything that the kids are likely to pick up and do it repeatedly. It may not be to your liking!
  • When we are on the phone or watching our favorite show or games on TV, we sometimes forget that there are kids around. Most of the curse words are first picked up at home; later they get reinforced in the houses of other friends and relatives. Ditto with the ability to pick up fights and argue incessantly.
  • Please be mindful about who else is your kid learning from. TV? Video games? Movies?

Children of our current generation are exposed to too many observable points. We have to consciously reduce them or at the least neutralize the wrong ones. Commercial products are vying with each other to win the child’s mind share, which eventually translates to market share. If you watch commercials on Nickelodeon or Cartoon network channels, you will know what I mean. Thanks to all such commercials, children are growing up thinking that they are always in need of something that will make them happy. The impact of romance and violence in the movies is too mind boggling to even imagine.

Things that children learn very quickly through observation include sarcasm, rudeness, negativity and complaining on the negative side and kindness, humility, honesty , cheerfulness, and being respectful on the positive side. Observed learning helps in perpetuating our culture and our value systems. It is up to us on what kind of values systems we want our children to be exposed to. Let us begin with the understanding of how we behave in the presence of our kids!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

saileela February 11, 2016 at 11:29 am

Often we teachers inadvertently teach through our acts that we put up there in class. And that includes how we enter the class, how we organize our work, the way we talk, the way we dress and our choices . All these little things impacts a child in class.


Sahadev Komaragiri February 11, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Yep. Some teachers are simply outstanding and they recognize the value in being role models for their students.


anupama February 12, 2016 at 9:07 am

living with two children at home and 80 students in every class, i feel iam living under a microscope all d time.


Sahadev Komaragiri February 12, 2016 at 10:02 am

Ha Ha Ha… What a feeling it is! But then you are only being observed and hopefully not judged all the time!


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