Your child has got this new obsession about wearing red and blue clothes. When you counter the request, you are told that their favourite superhero wears the same set of clothes all the time! Or your child insists they want to talk, wear clothes and even eat like their best friend.
Sometimes it is a superhero, sometimes a character from the book and sometimes their best friend- but most children at some point are inclined to imitate someone they like or admire. Usually, it is a harmless phase and they soon outgrow it.
It is a little more difficult when the person they admire is an actual person and not an imaginary character. If you feel the demands to be like their best friend is going out of hand, then maybe it is time to give it some thought.
There are mainly two reasons for this unrelenting obsession:
Insecurity: It is their way to fit in with their peer group. The desire to be accepted by them is high. They feel secure and reassured only when they look and act like their friend. These children typically suffer from low esteem and are not confident about their choices.
Admiration: They somehow feel great admiration for this person and want to look and feel like them. They are their idol and they constantly compare themselves with them. Their talents and traits are something they want to see in themselves.
In many cases this friend they are obsessing over might change from time to time.
Try some of the following things to help them with their obsession:
- Talk about personalities: Tell them about people and celebrities who marched to their own tunes. Point out that even their favourite characters never imitated anyone but came up with their own ideas.
- Do not criticise: Do not mock their friend or point out their faults. Do not harangue. This will make your child defensive and protective about their friends. Instead next time they imitate their friend just say,” So this is what so-and-so feels. What do you feel about the dress?” The very idea that someone wants to hear their view might prompt them to start thinking on their own.
- Open avenues: Distract your child with classes, activities where this friend is not involved. This will open their world to experiences beyond those mandated by this friend.
- Compliment them: Like mentioned earlier, the primary trigger remains a sense of low self-esteem. You can work on that together. Find out what makes this friend so imitation worthy. Appreciate every independent choice your child makes. Highlight the talents your child has and compliment them generously. Nurture these talents and encourage them to be their own person. If they start to feel okay being themselves, they stop being obsessed with being someone else.
Trying to behave like someone else is a phase in the larger process of them trying to find their own identity. This does not mean that your child will not find and honour their path in life. Treat it with a little patience and a sense of humour and watch them grow.