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What Troubles You About Raising Bilingual Kids? (November 2012)

Wednesday will mark the start of this blog’s second month. Over the first month I’ve received some email from readers who are working hard to foster good bilingual ability in their children…and yet struggling with various concerns. I offered what I hope might be helpful responses, but then it occurred to me:

Since everyone—and that includes me—is invariably struggling with some aspect of this challenge, wouldn’t it be useful to us all if we shared these struggles more openly on this blog, where we could lend support to one another, and learn from our common concerns?

So I’d like to introduce a regular feature called What Troubles You?, which will appear every few months. For these posts, I encourage you to…

  1. Add a comment below which describes your main struggle of the moment when it comes to raising bilingual kids and the things you’re currently doing to address the situation. (Feel free to use only your first name, or a nickname, and, don’t worry, your email address won’t be displayed.)
  2. Read the struggles of others and, if you can offer some helpful advice to anyone, please provide a reply. (Just click on that little “REPLY” link.)

To get the ball rolling, I’ll tell you about the main thing that troubles me right now…

Tearful moments

Lulu, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, is a very active 8-year-old. She would much rather flit about like a butterfly than sit still. But since daily English homework (reading and writing) has been a part of her life from about age 3, it’s something she has largely come to view as expected and unavoidable. When she first entered elementary school (she’s now in second grade), she would chafe at the “extra homework” she had to do, but I’ve tried to be sympathetic—while still being firm—and her attitude has slowly grown more positive.

But there are still tearful moments.

Lulu has a couple of pen-pals in the United States and, just yesterday, she got upset when it came time to write a reply to one of them. In the past I would simply scribble what she wanted to say, and then she would copy the letter over—so I was creating the first draft for her, essentially. But now, as she’s become capable of producing a rough draft by herself, I’d like her to write the letter first, we’ll revise it together, then she can make the final copy.

This new process, of course, means she has more work to do—and this is what prompted the tears. (The irony is that she fussed about it for 30 minutes, when the draft itself ended up taking her just 15 minutes to write!)

Striking a balance

What troubles me, then, is the challenge of striking a suitable balance between being sympathetic about the effort I ask of my kids, and yet standing firm about my expectations for that effort. And because this is an ongoing challenge, one that will naturally evolve and likely become even more of an issue as they grow older and have less time for English homework, it’s often in the forefront of my mind.

I do make use of “carrots” (a small prize for finishing a book is one) and “sticks” (like, no TV until the work is completed satisfactorily), but I’m beginning to think that a larger framework for their effort may help as well.

Recently, they (and Lulu, in particular) have been pleading to receive a weekly allowance for doing chores around the house. By including something like “attitude and effort toward English homework” as one of the tasks they would need to fulfill to earn this allowance, perhaps I can establish a long-term structure that will encourage a positive attitude and effort—and help curtail the tears.

How about you? What’s the main thing that troubles you these days? What have you done so far to address this situation?

Comments, please!

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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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