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girlsdancingSaba’s Question: Is my daughter a conformist?  She is two years and four months.  I signed her up for music class.  I watched her personality take a 180 degree turn.  She shies away from everyone.  She who responds to a complete stranger at Starbucks when they ask her questions, refuses to answer any of the teacher’s questions.  The only thing she likes to do is to imitate another little girl.  If she is sitting, dd will sit; if she is holding her mommy’s finger, dd wants to hold my finger and it has to be the same exact finger! If she is running around and is not listening to the teacher, dd starts running around as well.  DD watches her like a hawk and mimics her to the tee!

At first I thought it was cute and that she would grow out of it, but she is not and its getting stronger.  Last week at a dinner party dd was introduced to a thumb sucking little girl.  DD sucked her thumb the entire time we were there.  As soon as we left, she was back to her usual self!  This behavior is often when she is around little girls.  Things are different when she is around little boys her age.  She most often orders them around and takes charge!  Should I be concerned?  Is this a phase?  Has anyone else experienced this?

Noble Mother’s Response:

Hi Saba,

Your daughter’s behavior is wonderfully normal and healthy!  It can certainly be disconcerting as a mom of a strong, independent little girl to see her suddenly seem to change her personality in a snap and begin to imitate another child’s behavior.  The good news is that it isn’t about conformity.  It’s one of the ways she is learning.

“Young children learn through imitating everything they see modeled in their environment” (Sharifa Oppenheimer).  We know that preschoolers who hesitate to use the potty at 2 and 3 years of age are more often encouraged to do so when they see other children their age using it.  Children who refuse to eat certain foods at home will often eat them without a fuss at a friend’s house or at school.

“Peer imitation, or matching one’s behaviors to that of a peer, is thought to be a basic developmental process,” according to researchers.  “This process facilitates learning social skills, enhances self-efficacy, and remedies skill deficits.”  It’s interesting that one of the signs of autism is the inability to imitate their peers.

So, the next time you see your little one acting like another toddler, be proud – she’s healthy, bright, and doing her job of learning all that she can from the world around her.