I live in an area of Pa where there are a variety ethnicities represented and languages spoken. You can walk into any business and there will be multilingual signs, pamphlets and employees. If you walk through the local farmers market you will hear people speaking Spanish, Asian, Italian, English, Pennsylvania Dutch, etc… They speak their language to their elders, their neighbors and their children…and what you will find if you look closely is that the language of the eldest is typically also understood and spoken by the youngest in the family. This realization came into my head for a completely unique reason recently while I was engaged in a conversation with one of my girlfriends. She was telling me about the disrespect she was dealing with from her oldest son and the “sassiness” coming out of her young daughter’s mouth. She vented to me for quite a while and then asked my thoughts on the situation. At first, I wanted to suggest ways to correct or discipline the behavior or give her tools to “teach” her children to communicate respectfully…and then I recalled the Farmer’s market…all those people speaking and understanding all those languages…including the kids.
And it hit me!
As new parents, we don’t struggle with the concept of “how will we teach our children to communicate with us?” My husband and I didn’t buy books on “How to teach your child to speak English.” Never once were we concerned that once our boys started talking to us the words would come out in Mandarin or Portuguese. We simply spoke English to them, immersed them in it and they learned to speak like us which enabled us to communicate. It was a no brainer!
So if we assume that our children will copy our way of speaking (right down to the dialects) then why are we so confused when our children speak to us with disrespect, or sass or arrogance? They are simply communicating in the language they were immersed in. Which then begs the questions…are we really confused by their actions? Or are we totally aware of what's happened and just don’t know how to fix it?
It’s time for us as parents to face the reality of and understand that if we want our children to be polite, respectful, patient and understanding…what we really need to do is adopt those values as the language of our entire family and immerse them in it. Think of it as the Rosetta Stone of child rearing…Respectful communication by total immersion.
What language lesson will you teach today?