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Monkey See, Monkey Do: Is
it really a thing?
seems there is some scientific basis to the old adage, monkey see, monkey do.
As parents and teachers weíve certainly used that phrase often enough, usually
to provoke kids into thinking twice about getting into trouble as their peers
what if, with some scientific evidence, we could use that concept to advance our
behavior management and emotional literacy skills?
through monkey research, neuroscientists have determined there is something in
the monkey brain they refer to as mirror neurons. Those mirror neurons really do
cause the monkeys to mimic each other. If the same is true of us humans, what
when one yawns, it prompts the other to yawn and so too with smiling and even
other behaviors such as even crossing oneís arms or legs. When viewed by
another, it seems to influence them to do similarly.
to children escalating out of control, it is not uncommon to see that as the
child escalates, so too does the parent or teacher. It is as if they are each
mirroring the other.
this is the case, letís use it.
though than escalating distress, what if the parent or teacher chose to exude
another posture, something else for the child to mirror? What if we exuded calm?
Would monkey see; would monkey do? It seems so.
we model calm, we actually increase the likelihood of the child settling down.
It is when we try to in a sense, out-escalate the child, the child gets on a
track of trying to out-escalate us. Upset begets upset and calm begets calm.
kind of thinking is consistent with principles of emotional
literacy and consistent with facilitating emotional regulation in
children. As we the parent or teacher manage our own triggers (think of our
mirror neurons getting pinged by the behavior of the child), we are then in a
position to choose our response separate from the reflexive monkey see, monkey
can choose to remain calm. As we remain calm, we increase the likelihood of the
child following suit. It turns out our influence in calming kids has less to do
with cajoling, threatening or shouting at them to settle down and more to do
with presenting ourselves as we would seek for them. Calm.
calm, then we can talk reasonably to understand what was at issue and provide
help remembering this in the throes of child behavior. Consider this line: Let
them borrow our calm. Letís have plenty to spare and share. It certainly is a
benign intervention and in the end may help us with our stress levels too.
help? Borrow my calm.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
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