Parenting in two languages

From my experience, all parents struggle to align their parenting strategies with their co-parents, as each parent grew up differently than their spouse. In that regard, all of us are parenting in two languages, as we try to communicate our goals and experiences on the fly as our kids test the comprehensiveness of our arsenal. Add sitters and relatives to that, and directives from above must be quite confusing. We’re going through that the same way everyone else is, although our parents raised us in surprisingly similar ways! Still, we’ve added the French-English component to the mix as well.

It occurred to me today, with a bit of a shock, that Dave can’t understand me when I speak to our kids. We make a great effort to communicate with each other, so our parenting comes from the same place. Still, small things escape us. For example, I always say please and thank you with Tess, to encourage her when she’s doing something I like and to teach her how to be polite with others. Dave can’t hear that, but I can hear that he’s not doing the same in English or French. (I didn’t until right now.) It’s therefore my responsibility to pick up on that and pass it along. We’ve established such a routine and we discuss our approach so often that I honestly had slipped into auto-pilot; a necessary mode when so many balls are in the air at all times. Still, those are critical words, those pleases and thank yous.

I can hear eyeballs rolling all over the world.

What a ridiculous thing to focus on with a 1-year old!

But Tess copies everything we do, down to eating her raspberries only when we eat ours at dinner. Why not build respect for others from her earliest memories? Just because we’re her parents doesn’t mean we can’t be respectful. Respect here, by the way, doesn’t mean,

We see you as capable of making adult decisions.

We do, however, see her as a little individual. She may not get to make a lot of choices right now, but we’re trying to get across the idea that if she chooses to touch cords, she’s choosing a time out. So by that logic, she can choose (eventually) to use respectful language with the people around her when she sees how people respond to bring treated nicely.

All of that to say that trying to get major points across becomes so much more complex when one parent can’t understand the other. And we’re not even addressing how the nannies follow our guidelines! Dave’s attempts to pick up French are awesome and do make a difference, but seeing that let me off the hook a bit. I’m back on.

All of this strategizing is in play because Tess is freakishly observant. We decided we’re better off putting in extra time now to figure out a game plan than scrambling to correct course as she explodes into doing. In our minds, it’s like a first-year teacher building a curriculum. I get the feeling that parenting feels like that all the way to your children’s adulthood though. So the Politeness mission starts here, brought on by the simple phrase,

Give me!



One thought on “Parenting in two languages

  1. I love that you are working on please and thank you so early. We did the same thing and also began working on language skills early and were rewarded by a child who every though was older because she spoke so well. We still work on both of those Items and she is 9. But I am very proud of how she is growing up. I also understand the differences. My husband and I did talk about how we would raise her but there are some items which I just miss most of the time. Such as Yes Sir, or Mama. We decided that we would raise our child using this terms but I just don’t notice most of the time if she does not use them. It is hard work and takes a whole team to raise a child.

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