One underlying reason I enjoy living in Japan is the spirit of Zen. Now that I have a family, I no longer read about Zen Buddhism as much or sit quietly to meditate each morning. But the spirit of Zen is still with me, day after day, inside and out.
Today I’ve written 37 “Zen sayings” for parents raising bilingual children. Try reading each one slowly, reflecting on the words. Even close your eyes and repeat it softly in your mind. I hope these thoughts speak to you, and offer some support and inspiration.
1. Ten million tiny steps is all it takes.
2. More than a priority, a way of life.
3. Keep conscious of your quest.
4. One eye on today, one eye on tomorrow.
5. Seize each day, day after day.
6. Milk the moment.
7. Early efforts prevent later frustrations.
8. Persistent efforts add up over time.
9. It’s not one thing you do, it’s everything you do.
10. The scope of your action must match the scale of your aim.
11. Solid habits are the ground for steady progress.
12. Your actions matter, now and for many generations.
13. Stay patient with the process.
14. Do your best. Let life do the rest.
15. Be very serious, be very playful.
16. Might as well smile—this takes a while.
17. Laugh often and loudly.
18. More passion, more progress.
19. Enthusiasm ignites engagement.
20. You can never have too many books.
21. Reading aloud: the bedrock of daily routines.
22. Talk, talk, talk to your child.
23. Engage with every interruption.
24. Resources: better a flood than a trickle.
25. Make productive choices.
26. You’re never “too busy” and you know it.
27. This will test your spirit. You will pass.
28. Shape your circumstances in your favor.
29. It’s not about how hard it is, it’s about how hard you try.
30. Stop sighing, keep trying.
31. Keep going and you’ll go farther.
32. As long as there is effort, there is no failure.
33. There is always a payoff to perseverance.
34. You are not alone.
35. It’s okay to be obsessed.
36. The days are long, the years are short.
37. Enjoy the journey, bumps and all.
Adam, thank you for this wonderful post. This is exactly what I needed today. Pick me up, inspirational quotes!
Only two days ago I wrote on my blog about raising my little future trilingual (in Polish) about my frustration with myself. Recently I have been lacking inspiration and my efforts in language play with my 18-month-old daughter have become somewhat “hygienic” like brushing teeth – an “at least once a day, at least little something” thing but without much excitement, not much play or fun. (I do know that you are supposed to brush at least twice a day.) 🙂
I was feeling guilty that I was not doing enough, not able to get her in a playful mood for language. Needless to say, my daughter is completely NOT into brushing or opening her mouth to allow me to brush, but I have no intention on giving up, on trying in an always growing array of ways that it requires. 🙂 I have no intention on giving up on language and literacy in the same way. Somehow, however I’m finding the latter more difficult.
In the end I came to the conclusion that if I managed to come up with this many methods to try and brush her teeth so far (I made a list and put it in that blog post – it came to 20!), I won’t be able to honestly say to myself that I tried hard enough to get my daughter excited about learning (or at least sneakily teaching her) whatever is next on the language learning plan.
Previously, if a practice of some element of language development was not coming with any excitement, at least I tried to sneak the learning in, so there was never any forcing or longer sessions of something she didn’t like, but things like this happened:
– Reading a bedtime story… hey look it’s a vowel flashcard hiding between the next pages – what is this? This is letter “O!”, – nooooo idea how it got here… 🙂 – a few pages later – Ooops! another one. – “E!”
So here I go again with trying “at least once a day, at least something” to put some thought, if not action, into creating some new language play “toy”/ exercise /material for her. Whatever we did before is now a “no no no no no” for her. This is my first difficulty we came across, and I know there will be others in the future.
I do read to her every day, when she won’t let me read, we look at pictures together and point and name objects and the characters. I do talk to her a lot and try to focus my attention on her and nothing else, when we are together.
I still have some work to do on learning how to make myself emanate the “deliberate enthusiasm” you wrote about in another post. Not easy.
Dominika, I’m glad my thoughts spoke to you and offered some support. I don’t know your situation in detail, but based on the circumstances you’ve shared, I would encourage you to simply “follow the fun” and pursue those activities that bring you and your daughter enjoyment. As she’s still just 18 months, you need only bathe her in the minority language in playful ways—you needn’t “teach” her anything. In fact, “teaching” at this age can be counterproductive if the child resists and comes to associate the minority language with “work”—not to mention the stress it can cause the parent.
So, keeping to our Zen theme, for small children I think “the efforts made should be effortless.” I understand the desire to “teach” our children, but this active intention is more appropriate as children get a little older. Although ample language exposure must be provided (and reading aloud each day in the minority language should always be part of the equation), I would give new parents permission not to try so hard to produce the results they seek. With enough playful exposure, those same results will develop naturally in time. So the emphasis should stay firmly on the process, not on the result.
This is difficult to articulate clearly, but I hope you’ll understand what I want to say, that efforts are important and yet “too much trying” is not and could put strain on the natural process. After all, a seed will grow and bloom, if given enough water and sunshine; it doesn’t require further instruction from us to flower.
Dominika, please see the post I Do Not Teach Children. I Give Them Joy.—this will help clarify the idea.
Have a joyful day with your daughter!
Thank you for reply and pointing me in the direction of your article on joy. I agree that too much trying affects the natural process. This is what happened here, at least I felt it more on my side. Reading together is a real OUR time, special time before bedtime and we both enjoy it to no end. I like what you said that efforts with small children should be effortless. I think I relaxed a bit since and I feel much better for it. I believe that lighter atmosphere will benefit her too and put her in good mood. 🙂 Thanks again.
Dominika, you’re very welcome. I’m glad to know that my thoughts could be of some support to you. Have a playful day with your daughter! I’m cheering for you two!