Question: Why does my 4 year old like to copy other kids?

Adele Brodkin: I wish I knew more about the circumstances of his or her copying. If, for example, your child is imitating the behavior of children who are a bit older, that is because (s)he admires the other children who seem so “big.” Remember the old saying, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Children learn a lot from imitating other children and even imitating grown ups. In fact, using their imaginations to pretend play—being a teacher or a fireman or a mommy or daddy is very beneficial for social, emotional, and cognitive growth.

I know that there are times, however, when some children copy others’ unacceptable behavior.  That too, is nothing to worry about; but it does give you an opportunity to make your standards for behavior very clear. “I know Joe does that, but it isn’t really very nice and I would rather you did not do it.” This is particularly relevant for behavior that is unsafe or that may hurt another person’s feelings.

In either case, copying and imitating are both completely developmentally normal behaviors for your four year old.

For more advice by Adele, check out the Between Teacher and Parent column.