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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The July Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival: What do multilingualism, video games and sweets have in common?

This is the July multicultural blogging carnival and it is hosted by Stephen of Head of theHeard. The topic is Hidden Opportunities, and so I thought I’d share this post.

You know how you sometimes tell yourself that you will never, never, ever let your child eat sweets or play video games? And then find yourself doing just that? Or you decide to limit their screen time only to find out that sweets and video games are all they want?

I’ve been thinking about this and found that raising multilingual children is no different. I wanted my home to become a safe haven for our minority languages. I wouldn’t allow any Dutch at home, I would yell at anybody who would mix languages with our children and always said: “It is not our responsibility to teach our children Dutch”. Fast forward 2 years later and I find myself singing songs and nursery rhymes in all the languages I speak, even in English.

In short, I went over to the dark side (or should I say the Dutch side?) and allowed all these evil things such as sweets and screen time (which of course happened as well). However, I also became much more relaxed about all these strict rules that in fact were more debilitating than they were helpful.

I’ve been reading so much about reducing screen time, and found myself confronted with even more rules about consistency and being strict and saying “no”. Luckily, I found an approach that better suited my needs: the scarcity vs. abundance approach.

The reasoning behind this is as follows: if something is scarce, everybody wants it. This creates conflicts and anxiety. This is why when you limit screen time or sweets (or the majority language), it becomes scarce and hence desirable. However, if you show your child that technology, sweets and the majority languages are just one of all the cool things we can do, that they are normal, this gives the impression of abundance and takes the pressure off the children.

Especially with languages, rather than concentrating on not speaking a language (scarcity), we can better focus on the abundance of languages, and that the majority language, which is also a part of our children’s identity (I can’t stress this enough!) is just one of all these awesome languages the children can speak. This is why I now allow Dutch in my house and marvel in how well my children speak it.

And the picture? Is it a proof of my failed parenting abilities? Maybe. But maybe not. I think sweets are a part of a healthy diet, and the majority language should be a part of the children's linguistic diet. So here’s my hidden opportunity. It lies in less stress and more fun. In stopping tryng to be perfect, and starting to be me. And, in my defence- these Oreos were homemade!

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  1. “So here’s my hidden opportunity. It lies in less stress and more fun. In stopping tryng to be perfect, and starting to be me.” love!

    and homemade oreos sound really good…

  2. Hi Lori, how nice of you to visit! I found your approach of abundance perfect for this post and so linked to your great site! I am also a follower on Twitter and FB. I am sure I will find more great info on your blog!

  3. Interesting post and I understand the reasoning! That said, we don't eat any sugar or grains and have always preferred unplugged luxury with as little screen time as possible...even with my 12 year old.

    For us that is the easiest and healthiest way and I think it has helped her greatly in being a compulsive real book reader and super creative in all 3 of her languages ( Mandarin/Spanish/English).


    I bought into "a little sugar is okay" when she was younger and now I really regret that as I know more about the health risks.

    It's a slippery slope once one gives into sugar and screen time and t temptation is everywhere for this generation..but I think there are ways to do it that support kids while still being loving and calm about it.

    I think we just have to work harder on educating them on WHY they are eating this way or speaking these languages and what is the family priorities.

    My 12 year old "gets it", so is perfectly happy sitting next to a friend at the movies eating junk popcorn and candy, while she happily munches on her organic apple and cheese. ;)

    1. Hello, thank you for your comment. I guess it depends on the children. For example, my youngest would be perfectly fine with not having something. My eldest however is so full of willpower and I am just not picking fights with her. And then there is the fact that I do eat sweets. And enjoy them. And I do love technology (and I love books, too, and am in fact addicted to books!). Temptations are everywhere and have always been. It's like with alcohol. It was always present in our house in form of wine. I was encouraged to try it once I was old enough and now I hardly drink alcohol. I never was tempted because it was not forbidden. I guess different approaches work for different families and if non-sugar work for you, then great, and kudos to you!

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  5. I too, have that screen time battle with my strong willed 6.5 year old boy. As advised by a friend, we started the "kids day" last Saturday as long as there's no TV, no computer, no video games during weekdays and he's behaving well and doing what's expected of him. So, Saturday morning, he woke up early (7am) and announced, "Mama, its kid's day today and I can do whatever i want!" It got me nervous hearing his scream, but as we agreed, we have him watch tv after breakfast, stopping only when we have to go outside to the park or lunch/snack time. For the first time, he probably had 6 hrs of tv until bedtime. I have to restraint myself during the times i was supervising him. as I am not comfortable with the whole idea. His 5 yr old little sister doesn't really like to watch tv, prefers to draw and color or play with her toys. Anyway, he went to bed exhausted, woke up the following morning, crying and complaining he had a headache. Later in the afternoon, he had a low grade fever, so tired to do anything. Then he said, "mama, I don't want anymore kids day this Satuday!" I don't want to watch too much tv!" lol, music to my ears. So this Saturday, we agreed to watch only the Mandarin version of the movie Up :)

    As you said, temptation and abuse sometimes are stronger when things are forbidden. Kids are smart enough to realize natural consequences :)

    1. Hello, Paula, how kind of you to visit me. Yes, I think if you allow the children as much sweets/TV/ whatever they want, they in most cases will want to do something else because they'd get bored or else will see how their choices directly affect their well being! I am impressed by how patient you were with your boy and elt him watch so much TV to make him realize that it's too much and that we limit it for a reason!

  6. Olga, if the "dark side" involves your homemade Oreos, then please save a seat for me!

    As with anything, I think *balance* is important and I agree that children, with their parents' guidance, can often come to recognize that healthy place of balance for themselves.

    This might be more difficult, though, when it comes to homemade Oreos...

    Thanks for this tasty post!


    Adam Beck
    Bilingual Monkeys

    1. Hi Adam, yes, I think it's about balance, too! And these Oreos were fun to make and very tasty! Luckily, my children seem to have a rather sensible approach to sweets (they eat them but mostly know when to stop and making them is even more fun than eating them). seems fine to me.

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