You are standing on a train platform. It’s late, and foggy. No one is around. It’s just you and your child at your side.
You hear footsteps at the other end of the platform. They approach steadily.
You crane your neck, squint your eyes as the adrenalin starts pumping. You scan your surroundings as the flight or fight reflexes kick in.
Your child is also anxious and scanning for clues. But it’s not the approaching stranger that’s making them nervous. It’s you.
As adults we take our cues from our surroundings. Our young children however get their information from our faces.
Dr. Stephen Briers uses the example above to open the chapter on mirror neurons in his book, “How Your Child Thinks.”
“When presented with an ambiguous or unfamiliar situation, the first place most infants look for further information is in the faces of their caregivers,” writes Briers.
While children don’t have life experience to help them assess their surroundings, they master reading faces very early on.
Mirror neurons take reading your face to yet another, deeper level.
These special neurons are what allow us to learn from others by simply watching. Some experts believe that not only do we learn how to jump by watching someone else jump, we also experience the thrill of jumping from watching someone jump.
This is something that I need to keep in mind when I’m tired and grumpy. Inevitably, my 2 year old is following close behind watching everything I do.