They Say - Kids Look to Parents to Teach Rules of Play


1226904_70732689There will come a time in your child’s life when their friends’ influence will rival your own, but a new study suggests that when looking for role models, young kids look to their parents.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology told 44 preschoolers they were going to learn a new game called “daxing.”  They were then shown a video of a man and a boy arguing about the rules of daxing.

When it came time for the kids to try the game on their own, they were far more likely to use the man’s instructions over the boy’s.  In addition, when a puppet appeared and started daxing according to the boy’s method, children were more likely to tell the puppet it was doing it wrong.

Feeling daxed and confused yet?  What this all boils down to, say researchers, is that kids put their trust in adults, not other kids. Lead researcher Dr. Hannes Rakoczy told Science Daily:

“The results from our study suggest that children prefer to learn from adults rather than other children when it comes to rule-governed activities like learning a new game. They also expect other people to learn and perform actions in the way that the adults do, demonstrated by the expectation that the puppet would also follow the adult actor’s actions and not the boy’s.”

“These findings tell us that young children will accept adult’s behaviour as being right, and that adults behaviour should be followed. This could have implications for wider social learning of both good and bad behaviour.”

If the finding is valid, it’s good news and bad. Good, because it means that kids are looking to us as their role models and leaders. Bad because “do as I say and not as I do” no longer works. Having coffee and a half of a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast while insisting my kids eat oatmeal and fruit doesn’t just make me a hypocrite, it means that my kids might view my unhealthy behavior as being right.

For the most part, I try to be a good, solid role model for my kids.  But sometimes (like at breakfast!) I fall short.  Do have any bad habits that you hope your kids aren’t noticing?