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How Blaming Your Kids For Things They Didn’t Do Can Boost Their Language Ability

Who pushed over my bicycle? This week a typhoon roared over Japan. I didn’t blame my kids for the typhoon, mind you, but I did blame them for something connected to it.

Fortunately, western Japan, where we live, wasn’t hit so hard by the storm, but the wind was gusting pretty fiercely on Tuesday night. In fact, the next morning when I woke up I found my bicycle blown over on its side, like in this picture.

Then, as we sat down for breakfast, I fixed my kids with a stern look and I said:

“Okay, who pushed over my bicycle last night?”

The conversation continues

Lulu: (laughing) It was the wind!

Roy: (laughing) Yeah, it was the wind!

Me: You think this is a laughing matter? One of you got up last night while I was asleep and crept outside and pushed down my bicycle! Who was it? Was it you? (pointing to Lulu) Was it you? (pointing to Roy)

Lulu: Daddy, we didn’t do it!

Roy: We didn’t do anything!

Me: Maybe you did it together!

Lulu: It was the wind!

Me: (to Roy) What’s that little smile? Does that little smile mean you pushed down my bicycle?

(Roy tries not to smile.)

Me: You did it, didn’t you? You got up while everyone was asleep, you crept outside in your pajamas, and you pushed down my bicycle!

Roy: Maybe I did! Your bicycle is dumb!

Me: And then you went all over the city pushing down people’s bicycles, didn’t you? I bet there are thousands of bicycles out there on the ground this morning. And you were the one that knocked them down! Oh, when the police find out what you did, you’ll have to go to jail!

Roy: The police can’t catch me! They’re dumb, too!

The “blame game”

You see, when you blame your kids for things they didn’t do, it stirs a lot of lively interaction. And, as always, the more interaction you can prompt in the minority language, and the more engaging that interaction can be, the more you’ll fuel your children’s language development.

As in this scene at breakfast, the “blame game” starts with a silly accusation. I suggest spinning the scenario that your kids got up in the middle of the night, while everyone was asleep, to make their mischief. Children seem to love the idea of doing sneaky things at night, instead of being little angels in bed.

Your accusation is actually a playful invitation to take part in a bit of make-believe, a form of storytelling, a moment of theater. And when a child accepts that invitation, and even gets into the spirit of things by “confessing” to the crime (as Roy did), this expands the possibilities for interaction even further.

So the next time something goes wrong in your house…

  • The bread is moldy. (“Who put mold on the bread?”)
  • You can’t find something. (“You ate the car keys, didn’t you?”)
  • The neighbor’s baby cries at night. (“Stop pinching that baby, you hear me!”)

…just blame your kids.

How about you? Try the “blame game” with your kids and tell us what happened!


6 Responses

  1. Dear Adam,

    Here is the story which came out from your advice… :)

    My son came from playground where there are a lot of excavators now (the playground is being reconstructed) and I asked him if he jumped on any of them.
    —Are you sure? You didn’t move those heavy rocks with your excavator?
    —Hm… Yes. And then I had to bring some cement…
    And the dialogue continued in this mood.

    The interesting part is that he perfectly understood we were making scenarios, but he liked to participate a lot. And it was much more funny for me to interact with him this way.

    Later in the evening, while I was reading to him a book, next to his bed was “thrown” a puppet, a small one, which is to put on one of your fingers and to play with.

    And I began the game. I put the puppet on my finger and said:
    —Hello. I’m Dan. What are you reading?
    —(my son) Hello. Look, here is a dog who wants to travel around the world…
    —(me talking for Dan) Oh, do you know where I came from? All along from New York.
    (Don’t ask why NY, but later it was useful that I used a totally different location from ours because we could talk about differences in habits, food and so on).

    I won’t tell you the whole dialogue which was for about an hour… He was explaining to Dan what he was seeing in the book and was so happy that there is a new friend amongst us and of course, I didn’t want to stop Jason. It was too amazing for me. I even didn’t expect that his vocabulary was so rich!

    And the next morning, Dan came to breakfast and Jason showed him the marmalade from his grandma and gave Dan to eat some. The most interesting part was when Jason began to tell Dan what he is afraid of (the sound of alarm) and what he likes. And at one point I understood how much my son, almost 3 years old now, was talking about his feelings. Remember the movie “What about Bob?” where the father-psychologist talks to his daughter using puppets? While seeing the scene I said, no, this is completely strange and weird. But actually is funny, and very fruitful. Is like opening another channel of communication with your child.

    Result: I never saw my son talking so much in Romanian and this 3rd person acted as a neutral space where mom and son could talk about their feelings, whatever those are.

    This event occurred 2 weeks ago. Dan is not an active person as it was the first 2 days, but from time to time Jason is remembering him, is wearing on his finger and asks me: “Dan, where are you?” And we begin to talk and have more fun. :)

    Thank you for inspiration, Adam!

    1. Tatiana, I really enjoyed reading about these interactions with your son. It sounds like you’re making effective use of a variety of creative approaches. Your son is lucky to have such a playful mother!

      I’m happy to hear that my ideas and experiences can be a source of inspiration to you. At the same time, the truth is that hearing about your experiences, like in your comment—and the experiences of other parents—is an ongoing source of inspiration for me, too! So let me return the thanks to you and to this whole community!

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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