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It’s no big secret that children start mirroring the behavior of their parents when they are just toddlers.

mirror, mirror, even when kids are not in the room we have to assume they hear

image via Shutterstock


They pretend to make phone calls, cook meals, fold laundry, cheer for baseball teams, and even clean the house.

They learn from the world around them, and practice makes perfect.

We prepare for the mirroring as they get older.  We try our best to use calm voices, worry less about things like traffic and tardiness, and we don’t cry over spilled milk (but maybe over the old sippy cups found under the couch three days later).

We try to be mindful when we are dealing with things like temper tantrums, poor choices, and non-existent listening skills.

We want to show them how to handle times of stress.  We want to show them that it’s always better to remain calm, use kind words, and ask for help.

But the mirror is always there.

Even when we think that they are watching Dora, Busytown, or Peppa Pig…that mirror remains in place.

Even when we think they are working on a puzzle, focused on a painting, or reading a book…the mirror is still there.

And even when we think that they are out of the room…we have to assume that the mirror is nearby.

Today I nearly lost my cool.  I spent the morning dealing with a repair to our slower-than-ever DSL line and an upgrade to our alarm system that depended on that very DSL line.

The kids were stir crazy but I couldn’t get them outside.

There were constant questions from the technicians, it seemed.  And when there wasn’t a question, there was something that needed discussing.

Did I mention the stir craziness?

I did my best to keep the kids engaged and moving along to avoid any he said/she said meltdowns.

Finally, the work was done.  All that was left was to download the app for my upgraded alarm system…but the brand new iPhone just wouldn’t get the job done.

I tried to reach my husband.  No luck.

The alarm company technician tried to help.  No luck.

On went the TV.  Max and Ruby to the rescue, please.

The call was placed to Apple Care.  25 minutes on hold and I was told to reboot the phone.

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to explode.  I wanted to tell the nice woman on the other end that everybody does that first!!!  25 minutes of wasted time for an intervention that wasn’t an intervention?

I almost lost my cool.

I took an enormous breath, thanked her kindly and suggested that maybe a visit to the genius bar would help, scheduled an appointment with the alarm company technician for another day, and put my baby boy to bed.

I kept my cool.  I’m glad I did.

Because later in the day, as I was washing some dishes, I heard my daughter making a phone call:

This phone just won’t work.  I can’t get any apps to load.  I tried that.  I tried that too.  Thank you for your time but I guess I will go to the store.  (DEEP BREATH)

The mirror is always there.  Even when we think it is otherwise engaged.

Choose your words carefully.  Keep calm.  And proceed as if someone is watching…

Because someone always is.

kids hear and copy us

image via Shutterstock

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Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA.  She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog at can also be found on Twitter.

Galit Breen

Monday 18th of June 2012

Oh this is such a good reminder, you!

(Thank you!)


Sunday 17th of June 2012

What a great reminder. It's hard in the moment, to realize that your kids are watching your actions. I know for me I lose my cool I need to chill out more often.

Tragic Sandwich

Thursday 14th of June 2012

Oh, well done.

Elizabeth Flora Ross

Thursday 14th of June 2012

Great post! And so true. My husband I have have recently decided to table discussion of a number of topics for when our 3yo is not around (things like world news, for example). We realized she is always listening, even when she appears not to be. We engage her in conversation as often as we can, but also make sure we don't discuss things in her presence that are inappropriate for her age or could cause her to ask questions we're not prepared to answer. And she is very much in the asking questions stage! :)