Next time you find yourself facing off with a mini-me parroting your every word, try to find solace in this fact: We are all hardwired to copy. From walking and talking to smiling and playing, we learn practically everything from watching others and repeating actions. Imitation is also one of the earliest forms of social interaction. When a baby blows raspberries or laughs in response to her parents, she’s not only melting hearts but she’s also bonding and developing empathy skills. And as she grows, she continues emulating others in order to master new skills, connect with friends, and try new experiences on for size.
But around first grade, copying can take on new dimensions — for pure entertainment, children will repeat everything someone says or does to tease, bother, and provoke a reaction. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it doesn’t always feel that way. How to help your child deal in the moment and longer-term:
Ignore it. The less attention your child pays to being copied, the less she’ll fuel it. If she simply shrugs it off, the copycat will get bored and eventually stop.
Join ‘em! Encourage your child to copy right back in a lighthearted, funny way. Or have her stop the copycat dead in her tracks with this trick: Say something her friend won’t dare repeat like “Abby is the most amazing person in the whole wide world!”
Be direct. If your child has his own biggest fan, have him say something like: “You don’t have to do everything I do or like everything I like for us to be friends.”
Embrace it. Remind your child that even if it doesn’t feel like it, being copied is actually a sign of being admired. He may be happy to know that he’s an original and a trendsetter!