The Art Of Imitation

Children have a tendency to imitate their parents’ actions and behavior, and they observe and retain more than we realize.

A kindergarten teacher once told a group of parents to please be careful what they say and do in front of their children. Apparently, she knew exactly what transpires in the homes by the way the children play, talk and behave in school.

For example: two children are playing house and one is the father the other is the mother. If the mother remarks to the father, “Where does it say that the wife has to listen to her husband?” then the child is demonstrating the manner in which his mother speaks to his father.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was once asked how and when he trained his children to say the beachot. He replied, “We never taught them. They saw us making berachot before and after eating, and because children naturally imitate their parents, they also started to recite the berachot.”

Children imitate positive and negative traits from their parents. Our sages teach us: “Whatever a child speaks is learned from his father or his mother.” (Sukah 56b)

There is a story in the Gemara of a Jewish woman named, Miriam bat Bilgah. She renounced her Jewish religion and married a Greek nobleman. When the Greeks entered the Bet Ha’mikdash and desecrated it, she approached the altar, pounded her shoe on it and exclaimed, “Lukos, Lukos – wolf, wolf (in Greek) – how long will you devour our nation’s money?” (This is referring to the korbanot)

Upon hearing these words, the sages penalized her entire family of Kohanim by placing various restrictions on them when they served in the Bet Ha’mikdash. Our Rabbis explain that the reason why Miriam bat Bilgah’s family deserved this punishment is because her statements were a reflection of their feelings.

I once lived next door to a family whose young children used vulgar and obscene language. When I attempted to speak with the children about it they said, “What’s the big deal? My parents speak this way all the time.  Whenever they fight we hear them saying the exact same words.”