You might probably have seen a child fall down and still in shock, unsure how to react to the incident. If the accompanying adult pays great heed and starts checking him for bruises in panic, the child learns to react with fear and panic. On the other hand, if the adult just gathers the child, cleans the dust on his pants, and encourages him to continue with his play, the child will learn to ignore minor falls and bruises. This is one of the first ways in which he might be learning to react to incidents with emotions – checking the reactions that adults give to incidents.
Similarly, on the dinner table, if adults are encouraging the child to eat all the items on display, but there is one adult who shows disinterest in a particular dish or makes a face, the child is quick to learn that this is yet another reaction which can be given to the food presented to him.
The reactions that the child learns come both from the interaction of adults with each other and that with him. You can probably recall how your child would do some mischief and wait to watch the expression on your face. He would guess your reaction to his action and act accordingly.
For example, if he spills water on the floor deliberately, and you give him a stern serious look, he would not be encouraged to repeat the action. But if you end up laughing at his clumsiness or even showing fake anger, he would probably spill a little more water on the floor. We should remember that kids are smart to tell fake expressions from real ones a lot of times. So be sure you think twice before reacting to any action that your child performs.