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Forums / Multicultural experiences / Advice on raising bilingual children

Topic: Advice on raising bilingual children

  1. Peppermintbach
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    12 February 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Quercus and all,

    Things must be very stressful and frustrating for you. You seem very exhuasted and perhaps just “over it.” I think you and everyone else touched on how it’s all about respect, and you being viewed as an “equal” authority figure as your husband in your children’s eyes.

    When I was a child, and like a lot of the other bilingual and multilingual children in my extended family, we would use being this to our advantage when dealing with relatives who struggled with English. It wasn’t very nice of me and I was pretty bratty at times, I must admit.

    Some of the relatives who were also children at the time and I would purposely only speak in English around relatives who couldn’t really understand the language (despite how we could all speak another language). It was partly childish “showing off” as well as how it made us feel like we were part of this “club” that was separate from our older relatives. Also, it meant we could “ignore” any attempts at discipline by “pretending” we didn’t hear those relatives speaking in another language. Not sure if I’m making much sense.

    So I agree with Donte’ and CMF that it probably would be helpful it your children better understood what is acceptable and what is not. Yes, it’s great for them to have fun and for “kids to be kids.”

    But I feel they can still have fun while treating their mum respectfully. I personally think that fun and respect can co-exist peacefully. Otherwise, like I did, they may continue to test and push boundaries for a while...

    Just my thoughts at least.

    Pepper xo

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  2. Donte'
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    12 February 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Quercus,

    Your statement ‘I can’t even get the dog to sit’ made me laugh uncontrollably!

    I work with dogs you see and dog training is one of my many hobbies and passions! Having a very stubborn poodle who is quiet a challenge and a handful, I can relate! Even on this very literal level!

    Thank you. You really uplifted my mood this morning with that statement and hit home instantly!

    I often wonder what’s easier: to train a dog or a child! There’s a lot of similarities you know! In Greek a popular proverb says: ‘The child and the dog depending how you train them, that’s how they’ll be’.

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  3. Donte'
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    12 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Great points Pepper. :)

    Just as an outsider I feel there may be much deeper things here than just bilingualism. Some of these, like respect, boundaries, discipline, family relationships and dynamics, extended families, cross-cultural relationships, the change in a couple’s life after Kids arrive etc could be issues faced across the board. Maybe a family Counsellor could support the couple as they try to navigate all these complexities. One thing is certain: it’s never one partner’s issue only and it does affect everyone in the family. So everyone has to deal with it sooner or later. This is not something that could just sort itself out without huge efforts and input by all sides (in laws included).

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  4. Quercus
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    17 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hello Donte and Pepper and anyone reading,

    The word respect keeps coming up and it makes sense to me. The concern I have is as I see it my husband does respect me and demand respect for me from our kids. As my friend said recently respect must be earned. I don't feel like I have earned my children's respect to be honest. I'm not really a good mum.

    Miss 3 threw my words back at me yesterday... "Oh for goodness sake we have had this discussion". It was equal parts funny and sad. Angry and frustrated seems to be my norm that's not really worth respect.

    I suspect what I just wrote may have to do with what happened at Polish school today. I am feeling pretty low about it.

    The teacher was telling me a lot of thebparents do not want any English spoken in the class. She said this has caused conflict as some kids need both languages. As she was explaining another parent came up and made it clear not to speak English. She also made it clear my husband was welcome to stay and help because he was useful. The school coordinator was quite firm on the parents saying it is the kids needs not the parents wants that dictate the rules.

    But as hubby and I went for a cuppa I felt upset and anxious and angry. That I am not worthy of helping with the kids. He was pretty angry and said we'll give it a few weeks and if I'm not comfortable take them out. But I won't do that.

    At pick up I tried a different approach. The other parents left and I cleaned and helped pack up. The teachers were happy.

    And one said I can come early next week and mop before the class. And to be honest that hurt. It's not like I need to speak to clean. But in my heart I felt ashamed. That they don't want me there except to do jobs noone else wants to do.

    How can my children respect me if they see me treated as if I am less than the other parents?

    Hubby told me he was proud of me. That the kids will see that I care and am trying. That I persevere and accept situations that are uncomfortable to help them have more. Maybe they will learn resilience.

    It still hurts though.

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  5. Donte'
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    18 February 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Hello Quercus,

    I feel your hurt. It’s not easy. As your husband said though, good on you for persevering and making yourself available in any capacity possible for you to continue being involved. I would have thrown in the towel long ago! So give a pat on your back! Well done! You have chosen to be present. You have chosen to contribute despite the challenges and how much you hurt inside. Above all, you have chosen that it is not about you but it is about your children and their education. This is a special time, once a week, where the whole aim is to immerse the children in Polish. It makes sense to not want any English in the class.

    I would say that mopping the floor, cleaning the classroom before and after the lesson and providing whatever practical help you can is equally important as conjugating verbs and reading poetry and rhymes. And while you go about doing your ‘humble’ task you can always pick up a new word or phrase which you could talk about with your hubby and children afterwards...You could even play a ‘Guess what I’ve learned today...’ game.. where everyone shares one thing they’ve learnt!

    As a LOTE teacher I can say that we get into the hotspot by parents if we use English in class as the whole point of LOTE is to teach a Langusge Other Than English. So, don’t feel so bad. Keep doing what you can. You are one very important contributing factor in the development of your children’s life. One day they’ll look back and appreciate your efforts and struggle to be a part of their learning experience.

    Hope all goes well next week. X

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  6. Donte'
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    18 February 2018 in reply to CMF

    Hello CMF & Quercus,

    I like the idea of linking a particular behavior with a consequence. I think it’s part of positive parenting as it teaches children from an early age that it’s all about choices. Whatever we choose to do or not do in life has consequences. Some are positive and some are not. But we do have some control over our choices and growing up we learn that we are allowed to choose but we must be willing to accept the consequences. :)

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  7. Peppermintbach
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    18 February 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Quercus and all,

    I’m glad your husband respects you and tries to encourage your children to treat you with respect too. Hopefully when your children are older, they will appreciate the sacrifices you have made more. But me saying that obviously doesn’t help your current situation of course....the here and now is what you’re dealing with.

    I can feel your inner conflict with the whole Polish school situation. On the one hand, you want to contribute and help and give your children the best possible chance to learn Polish. But on the other hand, your self esteem takes a blow when you help mop and clean and struggle to communicate in Polish.

    A silver lining that you personally recognised is perhaps you’re, as you said, teaching your children perseverance, a work ethic of sorts and perhaps even humility.

    Also, I really like some of Donte’s suggestions. Perhaps things to keep in mind to make this whole journey a little less painful.

    Sending you comforting thoughts. Don’t worry, no hugs as I know you’re not into them ;)

    Pepper xoxo

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  8. Peppermintbach
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    18 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’ (waves to all),

    Sorry it has taken me a while to get back to you. Sometimes I lose track of which posts I’ve replied to and which ones I haven’t...

    Thank you and I agree with you it’s a multi-layered issue that is beyond only language. I feel it’s rarely just about language and nothing else. Your family counsellor suggestion is a good idea to help families improve communication, etc.

    Thanks again :)

    Pepper xo

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  9. Quercus
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    19 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Hello everyone,

    Thanks Donte' for the ideas I appreciate them. We play a name calling game in the car which helps me to learn. "You are a (insert random word here)". It is fun. I started it in English and then one day asked my husband to play it in Polish. We love it.

    And thanks Pepper for the reminder I am doing ok. Yesterday was a hard day. I saw my family and realised they find it offensive that hubby speaks to the kids in Polish only. My sister says she finds it really offensive.

    I tried to explain that the language was my choice. That I don't see the point in not giving my kids an opportunity that costs us nothing but time and patience. Her response was "we're in Australia" which made me angry.

    I tried to explain I am giving my kids the opportunity to choose. They will one day live or work wherever they choose. She couldn't see the value "why would you want to live anywhere but Australia?".

    Has anyone else faced this? Family who don't see the value in multiple cultures? How did you manage it?

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  10. Donte'
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    19 February 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Quercus,

    I'm on the opposite spectrum of the pendulum. My family and relatives do not see how I haven't indoctrinated my child into a Greek and haven't passed on the traditions and values of their society. Once every four - six years when I see my parents briefly over a dinner or two, I'm reminded what a failure I am for not teaching my daughter Greek or sending her to Greek school, or not christening her and making her a Greek Orthodox (even if my parents are Seventh-Day Adventists!)

    It's not that I don't see the value in multiple cultures and benefit of knowing a variety of languages, but it was never a priority for me. I always believed that wherever you live that's your homeland. I wasn't interested in passing on to my child religious beliefs, traditions and a language of another land while born and raised in Australia. When she was growing up I was reading her every night the aboriginal legends and myths and the dreamtime. I believe this is more important heritage for an Australian than my ethnic origins (which i chose to leave behind forever by migrating to Australia). I did however, gave her dual citizenship in the event one day she decides to live in Europe as we have many properties and lots of land over there and she's the only grandchild (as my brother has decided to not have any children with his wife of twenty years and travel the world and live it up instead), so, it seems one day all the inheritance will go to her.

    Ultimately, there's no right or wrong. We all do whatever we believe is appropriate for us and our personal situation. I understand people like your sister and their way of thinking and also understand people like you and your way of thinking. There are merits in both. We are our only benchmark. Nobody else. And is nobody's business anyway. But I grew up in Athens in a very affluent suburb with very individualistic attitudes and no sense of tribal - collectivist views like the Greeks I have met in Australia who migrated in the 50's and 60's from agricultural settings. So my ideas most certainly do not reflect the majority of the Greek population in Melbourne, and neither do they have to. They're just mine. I'd say keep doing what you doing aand do it for your reasons, the only right reasons. X

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  11. Quercus
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    19 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte' and thanks.

    You have this way of just speaking matter of factly that I appreciate.

    You're right it is our choice (hubby and I) and even with feeling uncomfortable in my heart this is what I want.

    When I think of my Australian heritage (and pass this to my kids) it is from a strange place. I do not feel any connection to the Aboriginal heritage of this country. I find it highly triggering because of horrible things that happened as a kid. As such I avoid the topic completely with my kids.

    So for me I feel more comfortable giving them a mixed cultural experience. That Australia is made up of many cultures and they all have their own intricacies. I don't want them to end up racist because they misinterpret my silence as dislike.

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  12. Donte'
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    19 February 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Thank you Quercus.

    It helps when you know what your motives are and have self awareness of what has shaped you as an individual and what triggers your feelings and guides your choices. X

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