I’ve been reading about finding ways to say “yes” to your child. Yes, you can swing for 2 hours. Yes, you can help me cook. Yes, you can paint on the floor. Yes, yes, yes. If I’m not too tired, I try to find ways to say “yes”, even though it sometimes means more work for me. Now, of course, as I’m getting more and more pregnant, saying “yes” can be difficult, but I’m doing my best.
There is another way of saying “yes” to your children, especially if they’re bilingual. I have recently joined a Facebook group for Polish parents raising multilingual children. In it, I shared my story and complained how Polish is not a priority language in the Netherlands and how difficult it is to raise children with Polish because of all the silly comments and stereotypes.
One member gave me invaluable advice: “Then, turn your back on these naysayers, and face your child”. Meaning: “ignore them and do whatever you find best for your child”. I think this applies to all parents, who have to take all kind of well-meant advice from strangers. Parents of multilingual children often hear that they’re confusing their children, and that their children’s level of the majority language is just not enough.
But we know that we are doing the right thing by speaking our mother tongues with our children. We are doing the right thing by prioritizing our languages. This is also a way of saying “yes” to your child. “Yes, I want you to speak my language”. “Yes, I want you to communicate with your grandparents in their language”.
Saying “yes” to your children also means doing what’s right and beneficial for them. And, in case of multilingualism, we know that it’s good for our children. Studies prove it. Successful stories of multilingualism prove it. In short, multilingualism is good for the brain, for the child’s future, for the parent-child relationship- if you decide to pursue it, and have the resources to do it.
It also means saying “no” to the doctor who says that your child doesn’t speak enough of the majority language. It means saying “no” to the family members who are unsupportive and worry that your child won’t speak any language well. It means saying “no” to “kind” strangers who comment that you shouldn’t speak your language with your child.
It means saying: “yes” to doing your thing- raising multilingual children.