When children cooperate, it means copying or imitating the most important adults around them. Parents often confuse collaboration with “good behavior.” When children stop cooperating, it is either because they have cooperated too much and for a very long time or because their integrity has been “violated.”
Very young children “observe” us to read our feelings before expressing their own. If a parent is agitated, nervous, scared, or not in the mood to accept visits, the child will start crying or turn their backs on the visitor.
The child is the parent’s mirror, whether the parent exhibits a particular behavior or has some feelings that do not come to the surface or does not realize them. Children “copy” parents mainly when conflicts and problems arise.
A child who cooperates directly imitates the behavior of his parents. Children who treat them with respect treat others with respect. Children who receive care offer care for others. Children whose integrity is not violated do not violate the integrity of others.
It is quite common for two children in the same family to cooperate in different ways.
Here are some examples to understand the issue of direct and inverted imitation/cooperation:
· Children who are criticized will also criticize others or themselves.
· Children who grow up in homes where violence is often adopted as the appropriate way to resolve disputes become themselves violent or self-destructive.
· Children who grow up in non-expressive families become either silent or very talkative.
· Children subjected to violence or sexual abuse become either too self-destructive or too abusive.
For this reason, observe the children and the way they behave. See how your behavior and feelings affect their reaction (e.g., If a heated argument with your partner has preceded it, the child may start crying or becoming aggressive after a while). Consider whether what “disturbs” you in the child’s behavior is a particular feature of your personality (e.g., If it bothers you that the child is continually grumbling to ask for certain things, see if you or your partner complain when you ask others for something). Take advantage of this children’s status to get to know yourself better.
Juul, J. (1995). Your Competent Child: Towards new basic values for the family. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux