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“I don’t want to!” The Hardest Moment When Raising a Bilingual Kid

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It happened. My son had a full-blown tantrum because we asked him to speak in Spanish or French. When it happened, my heart sunk. I took it very personally. I took it as a rejection of his heritage. I went an had an OMG moment with my MKB group… what have other moms done when their children exclaim they don’t want to speak the language of their heritage?

After that OMG I pulled myself together. I could do one of two things: I could just give up. Or, I could do what my parents did which was to say “too bad, you’re speaking Spanish.”

Here’s the thing. Kids are fickle. Kids change their minds all the time. We as parents are supposed to steer them in the right direction. My parents didn’t give in to my whims of not wanting to speak Spanish (Granted, they weren’t 100 percent fluent in English so for them it was more important to communicate in Spanish with us) and today I’m bilingual.

So yeah, I’m not giving up… sorry kid. One day you will thank me.

After the initial horror, we explained to our son the importance of speaking Spanish and French. Our number one reason right now is the ability for him to speak to his grandparents and family. He loves them so much, he understood that it is important to be able to speak to them.

READ RELATED: Things to Say to Your Kids When They Say “Why Do I Have to Speak Spanish?

 

I’ve also realized that we slack off plenty of times too—with so much going on, new baby on the way, exhaustion, etc., the truth is I am (and so is my husband) guilty of speaking in English more than I (we) should. The truth is raising a bilingual kid is a marathon, not a sprint! So we take each day as it comes.

I’ve written before about the importance of making language learning fun; I’m always looking for activities that will spark his interest. We’ve done his favorite books in Spanish,   museums in Spanish, movie nights in Spanish,   and I’ve been trying my best to go back to that (since again, with so much going on, I’ve lost a little of that fun element) perhaps he is sensing that it’s not FUN and it’s a CHORE, and that’s a big no-no!

Last night we cooked and he was happy and we did it all in Spanish! It warmed my heart.

I’ve learned that not only is raising a bilingual kid a marathon and NOT a sprint, it also takes a village – like all things in parenting!

I belong to a wonderful group called Multicultural Kid Blogs  and we often share our experiences, hopes, worries and triumphs around raising bilingual kids. Here are some of the wisdom shared by MKB moms who are also raising bilingual/multilingual kids:

Christa from Pura Vida Moms  says “I have been back and forth on the forcing issue. What I ultimately realized is that each day is a new day. If he’s having a tantrum and there might be something else going on (school issues, growth spurt, overtired, etc) I think it’s ok to let it go for one day. The next day, wake up and make it fun and playful.”

Dania from Embracing Diversity says, “It happens, but keep on at it. Not tonight, but tomorrow, like as this never happened. He will thank you later. Is not just about the language skill, it is about identity, knowing your roots, feeling that you belong.”

TIPS FROM OTHER PARENTS!

Here are some great tips from fellow moms raising bilingual kids and experts in the field:

From Bilingual Kid Spot: How You Can Create a NEED for the Target Language

Annabelle from The Piri-Piri Lexicon What To Do When your Child Refuses to Speak Your Language

Rita from Multilingual Parenting: 7 ways to motivate your child to speak the minority language 

Frances from Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: Tips for Motivating Language Learning in Preteens

 

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The hardest moment when raising a bilingual kid is when your child says "I don't want to!" (Speak another language). Here is my experience and some tips.

What tips do you have for parents going through hard times when raising a bilingual kid? Share below!

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

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